MUSCATINE — A hearing in Muscatine District Court has been set for May 24 to determine if Diana Broderson can remain in the office of mayor while her appeal works through the courts.
Broderson filed a motion Tuesday that would stay the Muscatine City Council's vote to remove her from office. The petition ultimately asks the court to overturn the City Council's removal of the mayor.
Broderson said she will argue her case for staying in office at the hearing next Wednesday.
"It is very awkward because this is unprecedented what they have done," Broderson said. "I think that it's best for me to stay in office while this action is being looked at in court because it’s the will of the people."
Broderson said if she is not allowed to stay in office, the council "will never make things right."
"I was voted in by the people of Muscatine to be their mayor, and to take away their voice and their power is a travesty," she said. "If I'm not allowed to stay in office and the judge overturns this, how could [voters] ever be made whole again? How could I ever be made whole again?"
Broderson said even if the impeachment is overturned, it will likely not be decided until after the election in November.
Asked Broderson, "how could that time ever be paid back?"
In the Motion for Stay, Broderson's lawyer William Sueppel wrote "due to the timing of the hearings, the judicial court calendar, the nature of legal proceedings and the timing of the next election, a Stay is the only way to ensure" rights of Muscatine residents are protected.
He argued the City Council acted "illegally and in excess of their jurisdiction" and violated Broderson's due process rights. He said the council acted as "investigator, initiated the prosecution...and were involved throughout the prosecution case."
Sueppel said council members should not have acted as both judge and jury, and also claimed City Attorney Matt Brick "intermingled various functions" by advising the council, and "did not fully rescue himself or his firm from proceedings."
Sueppel also said the manner in which the council removed the mayor was illegal under Iowa law, as the evidence did not meet the standards for removal.
Alderman Santos Saucedo, At-Large Representative, said he believes Broderson was given a fair trial.
"I don't know how the judge will rule in this moving forward but I feel we've done due process and that it was done fairly," Saucedo said. "We know that the mayor did have a fair hearing, in my opinion, because everything we went through was included in the information we were provided with."
Saucedo said he cannot speak for the entire City Council, but he personally feels frustrated by misinformation surrounding in the case. He added he knows it has been a difficult time for Muscatine residents, and hopes the Council will be able to move forward quickly and focus on new projects.
"I want to see the city continue to grow and thrive," he said. "It's something I'm hopeful that will happen in the next six months as we move through the process."
Wednesday morning City Administrator Gregg Mandsager said he has not yet received a copy of the appeal and "the City has not been served to date."
Sueppel said the only precedent in Iowa to support Broderson's right to stay in office can be found in Burke v. City Council of City of Lansing, in which the Lansing City Council voted to remove Alderman William Burke.
The Iowa Court of Appeals ruled this year "a City Council that is involved in prosecuting, investigating, and deciding a removal case is an example of a clear intermingling of functions" and amounts to a violation under due process laws.
The ruling was made after the district court in Lansing denied Burke's petition, in which he challenged his removal from the Lansing City Council.
Because Broderson's case has not been heard in a court, Sueppel said the "only available remedy is through Writ of Certiorari proceedings."
Broderson will appear at the Muscatine County Courthouse on May 24 at 3:30 p.m.