MUSCATINE — A district court judge's ruling on Mayor Diana Broderson's removal from office will wait until both parties provide additional information, including transcripts of closed session meetings.
Broderson was removed from office by the City Council May 11, but on June 14, a district court judge ruled she should be reinstated temporarily, until the case could be heard in court.
Her final hearing in Muscatine County District Court Monday lasted about 10 minutes, with Judge Mark Cleve presiding. Broderson's lawyers, William Sueppel and Catherine Gerlach, did most of the talking, making the request for the additional documents.
Following the submission of additional evidence, the judge said he will release a written order on Broderson's appeal of her removal from office.
Sueppel and Gerlach have requested the minutes of seven closed sessions — related to the mayor's actions in office — be submitted for evidence. The city's lawyer, Amy Reasner, said the meetings total about 10 hours.
Reasner has until Thursday to respond to the request for the closed sessions minutes, and argue whether they should be included as evidence.
Both sides agreed the closed session recordings should be transcribed by a certified court reporter, at the city's expense. The judge will review the transcript privately, and then decide whether to include them as evidence.
If the closed session meetings are included as evidence, then they would be made public.
Last week, Sueppel requested the seven closed session meetings be included in the case as evidence. The city has previously argued it held the closed sessions to discuss pending or ongoing litigation, and the minutes are confidential because of attorney-client privilege.
In the first three closed sessions, on Feb. 18, April 7 and June 23, 2016, Broderson was present. City Administrator Gregg Mandsager and council members have said Broderson was "coached" on her role as mayor and the scope of her authority during those sessions.
In the following four closed sessions, Broderson was excluded, according to Sueppel. Those were held Oct. 13, Oct. 20 and Dec. 15, 2016, and Jan. 5, 2017, to discuss matters "presently in litigation or where litigation is imminent."
Sueppel said the city council found Broderson's "presence at (the meetings) creates a conflict of interest as she is a potential adverse party to the pending/threatening litigation."
He argued that in the closed sessions on April 7 and June 23, 2016, City Administrator Gregg Mandsager told Broderson "he was considering suing the mayor for defamation." Sueppel argued the city was not considering suing Broderson, but instead, Mandsager was considering a suit, making him the "adverse litigant," who was nevertheless included in the sessions.
The last closed session meeting, on Jan. 5, 2017, was held one week before the council voted on Jan. 12 to have City Attorney Matt Brick file written charges for the mayor's removal.
Sueppel also argued the meetings do not fall under attorney-client privilege because some of the minutes have already been released. He said audio of the Feb. 18, 2016 session was provided, without court order, to the Homefront Investigation Service hired by Muscatine to look into gender discrimination allegations.
Next steps: Reasner has until Thursday to file a response to the request for the closed session transcripts. Then, the transcripts must be submitted to the court by Aug. 1. After that, both parties will have the chance to submit additional evidence. In an order released after Monday's hearing, the judge wrote "After the record has been closed the Court will consider the matter and issue a written ruling on the plaintiff's (Broderson's) petition."