Mayor Diana Broderson was never the problem in Muscatine.
It was the City Council that torched the U.S. Constitution when it named itself judge and jury over Broderson's impeachment, even though its members had vested legal and political interests in the outcome. It was City Administrator Gregg Mandsager that lobbed half-baked allegations of wrong-doing at Broderson, including accusations that the very act of a mayor talking to staff was an impeachable offense. It was City Attorney Matt Brick who, along with Mandsager, schemed behind closed doors with the City Council and decided the impeachment proceeding's outcome months before a show trial convened last spring, according to records quoted by Muscatine County District Court Judge Mark Cleve. Collectively, they've burned through more than $100,000 of taxpayer money waging a shameful campaign against the voters.
No, Broderson, for all her faults, wasn't the problem at Muscatine City Hall. It was, and continues to be, the men who worked so hard to oust her who forfeited any claim to public trust.
Broderson called the men running Muscatine "good ole boys" on campaign material. She criticized their trips to China. In turn, they conspired to run roughshod over her Sixth Amendment rights to a fair and impartial trial, ruled a judge this past week.
Muscatine County District Court Judge Mark Cleve offered no surprises this past week with his smack-down of the kangaroo court Muscatine City Council convened earlier this year to impeach Broderson. Any reasonable observer of the farce in Muscatine saw precisely what was happening months ago.
City Administrator Mandsager's involvement was especially troublesome. He pulled the strings throughout this entire shameful affair. He bullied the council with threats of defamation lawsuits. He spent gobs of taxpayer cash suppressing release of public records, taking the matter to state Supreme Court. He sent thinly veiled ultimatums to critical media organizations on Muscatine letterhead. He flouted the public trust.
Mandsager spared no expense taking down a mayor he deemed a menace to his dominance over Muscatine City Hall. Mandsager's willingness to wage open conflict with an elected official is evidence of his total indifference to traditional governmental power structures.
Perhaps Mr. Mandsager needs a civics lesson. He's an employee of the city. He works for the council, not the other way around.
There's an election in Muscatine on Nov. 7. It's imperative that the new council either rein in Mandsager or show him the door. The latter would be a pricey affair, mind you. His termination would cost six-months' salary and pay for unused vacation, according to his contract. The price could skyrocket even higher, as Mandsager said on Thursday that he's again mulling filing suit against Broderson and the city. His statement reads like someone begging for a settlement in exchange for his departure. Even so, six figures has already been spent on the crusade to override the voters and eject Broderson from office, a lawless campaign at the center of which Mandsager clearly sat.
The entire impeachment charade was an attack on the very concept of justice, all mounted under the banner of the citizens of Muscatine.
One mustn't be a Broderson disciple to be outraged by the total and utter lawlessness officials in Muscatine were willing to display to railroad the voters. Supporting Broderson isn't a requisite for righteous disgust aimed at the council and Mandsager.
This is about principle, something that those atop Muscatine government seem to lack. Don't buy the spin from City Council members. This past week's court decision went miles beyond simply ruling on the merits of Broderson's ouster. It was, in a very real sense, a conclusion that a city government flogged the Bill of Rights in order to solidify political power.
The unprecedented degree of malice and lawlessness on display for months in Muscatine cannot be overstated.
Anyone so willing to shred basic American values for his own benefit has no place in government.