Ousted Muscatine Mayor Diana Broderson can still stick it to The Man or, in this instance, The Men. That's if she chooses to again seek office in November's election.
It was the seven men on Muscatine City Council, to be precise, who last week booted her from office for what amounted to a long list of petty grievances and personality conflicts.
Impeachments are highly unusual. And Broderson's situation is almost unique. She didn't commit a crime. Nor did she really violate any ethical maxim. She wasn't forced to resign under suspicion of some egregious act, a common reality that contributes to the rarity of impeachment at the local level.
It'd be understandable if the entire charade soured Broderson on local politics. For months, she was pounded in the local media. For weeks, City Council members told citizens to "wait and see," the evidence will justify the expensive, community busting crusade against the first-time politician. Bunk. And, along the way, council members set some incredibly dangerous precedent that diminished the role of voters.
After all this, it's almost Broderson's duty to seek her old job in November.
In several instances, the charges against Broderson could be actual violations of the U.S. Constitution. In at least two cases, Broderson was charged with speaking out against political opponents. That's right, free speech itself is an impeachable office in Muscatine.
In some ways, Broderson's impeachment and removal from office wasn't about her. It was a show of force by an entrenched political class that hasn't felt pressure in years. In essence, by ousting Broderson, the powers that have long run Muscatine took off their shirts, puffed their chests and flexed.
Any challenger be warned.
Now, it's up to the citizens of Muscatine to decide if they're going to stand for such an affront to the democratic process. Broderson is best positioned to lead the charge against the obvious war on dissent. But she'd have to run to do so.
The City Council's kangaroo court spent two full days pretending the facts mattered before, predictably, ousting her from office in a unanimous vote. Council members didn't even discuss the issue. It was all over in three minutes. And the people of Muscatine are supposed to believe that there was no illegal meeting, no walking quorum, no real violation of state law on the part of the City Council. Not a single agenda detailed any executive sessions or public meetings pertaining to the removal vote. It would be almost unprecedented for any legislative body to vote on something so weighty without first hashing it out.
Funny, it's more likely the City Council flouted the law than the mayor whom they booted from office for saying mean things about them. It wouldn't be the first time. State lawyers determined that the council violated state law last year when it stripped Borderson of appointment power. That's what set this whole farce into motion.
Broderson this week is expected to appeal her expulsion from office. The legal maneuver was a sure thing from the outset. That fact alone scuttles any pretext offered by City Council members that legal fees were part of their problem with the freshman mayor. But courts are, in most cases, notoriously deferential to legislative bodies. While warranted, Broderson's legal challenge is likely to struggle against legal precedent.
The ballot box remains Broderson's best weapon. Again, she's never been convicted of a crime. Nor was she removed for some egregious ethical lapse.
Broderson's only crime was being different.
The City Council proved last week it prefers mob rule over democracy if elections don't go its way. It's evidence that something different is precisely what Muscatine needs.