Marion City Council tackles mayoral residency dispute tonight

'Quasi-judicial hearing' will include testimony from embattled mayor and his critics

Todd Dorman
Published: January 14 2014 | 4:05 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:03 am in
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Marion’s City Council will dig into the dispute over Mayor Allen “Snooks” Bouska’s residency tonight.

If you’ve never been to a “quasi-judicial hearing,” this is your chance. Unless you have a fear of “bombshells.”

“Who knows what’s going to happen?” said Bouska, who declares that he is a Marion resident under the letter and spirit of Iowa law. “There may be a bombshell. Holy cow, you know?”

Last month, Citizens for a Better Marion, which contends that the mayor isn’t being truthful about his residency, delivered petitions with more than 100 signatures requiring the City Council to hold tonight’s 6 o’clock hearing. Among those citizens is former Council member Craig Adamson. Will his side be packing bombshells?

“I would call it that, yes,” Adamson said.

The mayor and the petitioners each will submit evidence and testimony, with the council sitting in judgment. Public testimony will be heard, but only if it offers direct evidence on the mayor’s residency. Other, more opinionated orations won’t be allowed.

“I’m going to have to be heavy-handed on that part, which may not be popular,” said Mayor Pro Tem Joe Spinks, who will be presiding.

After hearing testimony, according to tonight's agenda, the council may go into a closed, executive session to deliberate. But it’s important to note that the council does not have to close its discussion. It can choose to have an open debate. Bouska wants it to be open. Adamson has no objection.

“My feeling is I wouldn’t mind having it (open),” Spinks said. In the end, he said, the call will be up to the council. I think openness is always the right call.

Bouska, a longtime Marion businessman who owns two homes in the city, predicts a “long, ugly evening.” But he also says “this, too, shall pass.”

“There’s been a private eye following me, and if he does his job, I’ll be fine,” Bouska said.

Wait, what? I asked Adamson if his side hired a gumshoe.

“I’m not going to comment on that for this conversation,” he said.

Citizens for a Better Marion says Bouska really lives in Hiawatha, and that his Marion homes and voter registration are a ruse. They have “very damning evidence” to back up that assertion, Adamson said, evidence the council shouldn’t ignore.

“They’ll have to greatly compromise their integrity, in my opinion. Or they’d have to disregard the rule. One of the two,” Adamson said.

Come early. Good seats will go fast.

But the bombshells will have to be very big to change the arc of this saga. As I've discussed before, state law sets the residency threshold pretty low, with voter registration as its main requirement. My sense in talking to various folks around town is that the debate over Bouska’s sketchy residency was settled in 2011 when voters elected him. His status in the community as a businessman for 20-plus years seems to trump the notion that he’s a carpetbagger.

“I want to get this behind us,” Spinks said. I don't think he's alone.

My own mind is still open enough on this issue to listen to what the petitioners have to say. Maybe they will deliver a Perry Mason moment that drops our jaws. That could change things, including public opinion.

Short of that, I don’t expect the council to toss out the mayor. And we’ll get back to the meaty growth and development issues that helped spark this drama in the first place.

 

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