illustration
Leo Kelly

Vindicated.

That's Muscatine Mayor Diana Broderson.

She leveled "unfounded" allegations, whined City Council members and their attorneys. She made "baseless" claims in public, they squealed. 

Go ahead, read the recently released state audit of a 2014 trip to China, a probe initiated by Broderson's nosing around.

Here's a quote that sums it up nicely:

"... majority of the trip ... involved cultural and sightseeing experiences," the auditor wrote.

In layman's terms, a trio of Muscatine officials — City Administrator Gregg Mandsager, Community Development Director Dave Gobin  — took a vacation on the taxpayer dole. And when Broderson started asking questions, the City Council ousted her through impeachment, an extraordinary attempt to cover up what looks to be a culture of patronage and cronyism. 

As the audit proves, something reeked about the whole jaunt to China. It was Broderson's duty to ask questions and demand answers. 

It should come as no surprise that Muscatine's legal fees doubled in 2017. Those who run the city don't respect the taxpayer, evidenced further by the state audit. They'll blow any sum of tax dollars to defend their cozy little political fiefdom. And they'll plow through even more to make sure Hopkins is elected in November. 

Make no mistake, this isn't a full-throated endorsement of Broderson's truncated tenure in office. At best, it's been middling, consumed by embarrassing spats with the City Council and administration. We couldn't hide our collective eye roll when she recently conjured Bernie Sanders as she announced her re-election bid. But there can be no doubt that her opponents undercut her ability to succeed. 

The good ol' boys, as they loath to be called, were too busy covering their tracks.

The city, predictably, doubled-down on this master class on corruption. Its response to the audit was nothing but laughable petulance. 

They rejected the auditor's conclusions wholesale, in a shocking bit of nose-thumbing hubris. They scoffed at the auditor's call for accounting practices that would shed light on how cash is spent on these little pleasure trips abroad. They didn't even like the idea of publicly detailing such trips, before hand, in an open meeting. 

Of course, this is the same governmental body that, now, is fighting keep recordings taken during back-door meetings out of evidence in their continued attempt to keep Broderson out of office. 

Mind you, this is the same City Council that displayed no basic respect for the constitutional foundation of due process. They sat as chief witness, judge and jury of Broderson's impeachment trial earlier this year. A state judge almost immediately saw through the kangaroo court and ordered her back into office pending a full ruling.

So, thus far, an independent jurist concluded that the process to oust Broderson was probably unconstitutional. An independent auditor has found that Broderson's complaints were, indeed, founded. 

And yet, Mandsanger and the City Council continue the ruse. One City Council member went so far as to say the audit shined a positive light on the city operations.

He's either delusional or dishonest. There's no third option here.

Our disdain for the farce in Muscatine has nothing to do with supporting Broderson. Instead, it's a stand for the basic principles of good government, concepts that Muscatine City Council and its administrator are willing to flout with abandon so long as it personally benefits them. 

They displayed contempt for separation of powers when they stripped Broderson of her mayoral duties. They displayed contempt for voters when they ousted Broderson for sniffing around and saying unkind things about them. They displayed contempt for the U.S. Constitution when they presided over impeachment hearings that directly served their political interests.

And, now, state auditors suggest that they displayed contempt for transparency and taxpayers alike before Broderson ever took office.

Oh, there's deep-seated rot that's eating away at Muscatine City Hall, all right. But it isn't Broderson that's causing the disease, which predates her tenure.

Muscatine's jet-setting administration and its rubber-stamp City Council are the plague here, one that voters can stamp out come November.

Correction: This editorial was updated to accurately reflect which city officials went to China in 2014. City Administrator Gregg Mandsager, Community Development Director Dave Gobin made the trip. Former Mayor DeWayne Hopkins traveled twice to China, in 2012 and 2014. 

Local editorials represent the opinion of the Quad-City Times editorial board, which consists of Publisher Deb Anselm, Executive Editor Autumn Phillips, Editorial Page Editor Jon Alexander, City Editor Dan Bowerman, Associate Editor Bill Wundram and community representative John Wetzel.

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