Lisa Kuzela, a flood victim, tax opponent and critic of city government, has pleaded guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct stemming from an episode in June in the lobby of City Hall, the Linn County Attorney’s Office reports.
Kuzela, 49, of 341 Carter St. NE, initially had been charged with simple assault, a charge that was dropped in plea negotiations and as part of Kuzela’s decision to plead guilty to a second simple misdemeanor charge, disorderly conduct — loud and raucous noise, Matthew Kishinami, assistant Linn County Attorney, said this week.
Kuzela has been fined $150 and assessed $231.54 in court costs and a $52.50 surcharge. The court granted permission for her to pay off the money at a rate of $50 a month.
On Friday, Kuzela said she would have pleaded guilty to disorderly contract soon after the June 26 incident because she was yelling that day at City Hall. But she said she did not assault anyone and so was ready to fight that charge.
The criminal case against Kuzela resulted when city officials say Kuzela came to City Hall to complain that a flood-recovery benefit she had been getting had ended. The particular benefit made mortgage payments on flood-damaged homes as flood victims fixed them up or made their way through the city buyout program.
Some 350 homeowners obtained benefits through the interim mortgage assistance program, though only a handful were left in the program when the City Council announced it was closing the program for the final few in early 2012. The city then sent certified letters to those few and closed the program in April.
According to a police report of the June incident, Kuzela was reportedly causing a “verbal disturbance” at City Hall, which prompted Sandi Fowler, assistant to the city manager, to pick up the phone to call police. Kuzela then “struck her (Fowler) in the face and the phone dropped,” the police report states.
As part of her guilty plea to disorderly conduct, Kuzela also was ordered not to have contact with Fowler for five years. However, Kuzela still can attend meetings at City Hall, according to the court ruling.
In 2011 and again in 2012, Kuzela was one of a core group that opposed the effort to extend the city’s local-option sales tax to raise money to help build a flood protection system for the city.
Twice, on close votes, the tax extension question was defeated by voters.
On Friday, Kuzela said there was no reason for the no-contact order, and she said her attorney is asking the court to reduce the length of it to six or 12 months.
“They’re not afraid of me, they’re afraid of what I’ve done to prevent them from getting money,” she said. “They have gone too far, and they’re doing it because it’s me.”