Pence aiming to release records of his own Ukraine calls
WAUKEE, Iowa (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence says he is working with the White House counsel’s office to release transcripts of his own calls with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Pence says the phone conversations help exonerate President Donald Trump of any wrongdoing.
Pence was asked about releasing his transcripts and told reporters, “I’d have no objection to that.” He spoke after an event in Waukee, Iowa, where he addressed supporters about the president’s trade policy.
Pence says he “never discussed the issue of the Bidens” with Zelenskiy. He again defended the president, insisting that a “plain reading” of the rough transcript of Trump’s call with the Ukranian leader shows “there was no quid pro quo.”
BODY IN HOMELESS CAMP
Iowa police investigating body in wooded area as homicide
(Information from: KCCI-TV, http://www.kcci.com)
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Police are investigating the discovery of human remains in a homeless camp near downtown Des Moines as a homicide.
Television station KCCI reports that the police received a tip Tuesday that led investigators to a wooded area behind an abandoned manufacturing plant. Police Sgt. Paul Parizek says the case is being treated as a homicide, noting that the body had been “cleverly concealed” and that the person did not appear to die of natural causes. He did not share other details of how the person died.
Police says the body was likely in the area for a few months. Officials have not determined the person’s race, gender or age.
IOWA OFFICIAL-EXPERT WITNESS
Top aide to Iowa governor working as family’s expert witness
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A top aide to Gov. Kim Reynolds is working as an expert witness in a private property lawsuit, backing a family that is seeking millions of dollars from neighbors in a zoning dispute.
The outside work by Department of Administrative Services Director Jim Kurtenbach is unusual for an agency leader. His testimony supporting a family seeking to develop an Ames campground over the objections of neighbors could give the appearance that the executive branch is taking sides in a local dispute.
Adding to the potential for a conflict is a misstatement about his state job on Kurtenbach’s résumé, which was filed in court last week. Kurtenbach wrote that his department is the “primary entity charged in the Code of Iowa with representing the State in legal matters,” which isn’t true. The attorney general’s office represents the state in legal matters.
Kurtenbach didn’t respond to messages seeking comment. A Reynolds spokesman said Kurtenbach had disclosed his work on the case before his appointment in June.
HOUSING DISCRIMINATION APPEAL
Iowa court allows Sioux City to sue in companion animal case
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Court of Appeals says the Sioux City Human Rights Commission may sue the owners of rental properties for housing discrimination for rejecting renters with disabilities who asked to keep companion animals in their homes.
In a decision filed Wednesday, a three-judge panel concluded the city and its civil rights commission have standing to sue for violations of the law under the Iowa Civil Rights Act.
The city first sued James W. Boyd Revocable Trust and its trustees James Boyd and Jennifer Boyle in March 2017, claiming they violated the law by denying reasonable accommodation of a disability. The city seeks a court order to stop the practice, civil penalties and punitive damages.
The city says applicants for rentals were told that no animals were allowed in 2014 and again in 2016.
A judge dismissed the lawsuit in March 2018, finding the commission was not an “aggrieved person” eligible to sue under Iowa law.
The appeals court judges applied the federal discrimination law definition, which allows a local civil rights commission to directly litigate discrimination concerns.
They sent the case back to district court for trial.
FLOOD WALL-CEDAR RAPIDS
Officials meet in Cedar Rapids to break ground on flood gate
(Information from: The Gazette, http://www.gazetteonline.com/)
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — Cedar Rapids officials have announced construction of a new flood gate to protect part of downtown from Cedar River flooding.
The Gazette reports that city leaders, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials and members of Iowa’s congressional delegation gathered Tuesday for a groundbreaking ceremony.
The 4-foot thick gate will be 14 feet tall and 67 feet long and will hide behind a flood wall when not in use. It can be rolled into place within minutes to protect the New Bohemia business district when the river rises.
A contract to complete the $2.4 million gate was signed last week, and construction will likely begin later this year or next spring.
The city has been slowly assembling a $550 million flood control system since devastating floods ravaged Cedar Rapids in 2008.
CEDAR RAPIDS HOMICIDE
Another suspect arrested in 2017 Cedar Rapids slaying
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — Authorities have arrested another suspect in the 2017 shooting death of a man whose body was found in a Cedar Rapids alley.
Cedar Rapids police said in a news release Wednesday that 42-year-old Lloyd Koger Jr. is charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy and other crimes. He’s being held on $1 million bail. Linn County court records don’t list the name of an attorney who could comment for him.
Police say Koger and 19-year-old James Phillips killed 34-year-old Leland Harris, whose body was found Nov. 22, 2017. Phillips has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and other charges and is scheduled to begin trial March 23.