Court Denies Mahaska County Motions In Airport Lawsuit

WASHINGTON – An Iowa District Court judge has denied a motion to reconsider 2018 and 2019 summary judgment decisions that were decided in favor of the Cities of Oskaloosa and Pella and a motion to sanction attorneys for the Cities. Judge Crystal Cronk issued the ruling late Sunday evening, finding that Mahaska County had no legal standing for both motions.

Motion to reconsider

In June, attorneys for Mahaska County filed a motion to reconsider a 2018 summary judgment ruling that found that the 28E agreement that started the regional airport project was not a violation of public policy and that there was no rational basis to invalidate the agreement. Additionally, the motion asked the Court to reconsider a 2019 summary judgment that, building on the first summary judgment ruling from 2018, found that Mahaska County must abide by the stated amendment and termination agreements of the agreement, and that the County must allow its SCRAA representative to attend meetings of the SCRAA. Lastly, the motion filed in June sought to invalidate the 2012 28E agreement.

In a multi-faceted ruling, Cronk first found that the motion to reconsider could only apply to the 2019 summary judgment ruling. Iowa Court Rules of Procedure set a 15-day timeliness rule on motions to reconsider. Additionally, a motion to reconsider the 2018 summary judgment ruling was previously ruled on in June 2018, meaning that any further motions to reconsider the 2018 ruling are barred.

“Therefore, this motion may only request reconsideration of the Court’s second summary judgment ruling, though indisputably untimely,” Cronk wrote.

Cronk further found that the motion to reconsider could not be granted, as it re-litigated the same issues previously addressed in the 2019 ruling.

“The Court already determined as a matter of law that the 28E agreement at question here is valid and enforceable, and the agreement did not violate public policy. Should Defendant wish to challenge this ruling, it may do so through the appropriate vehicle, which is not a successive motion to reconsider. Based upon this limited scope, the Court declines to reconsider, enlarge, or modify its previous ruling,” Cronk wrote in her ruling.

Contained within the motion to reconsider was a motion for summary judgment, asking that the Court declare the 28E agreement illegal and unenforceable. Cronk declined to do so.

“Summary judgment is only proper when the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The Court, above, has already found that Court’s June 13, 2018, ruling that the agreement is legal and valid remains in force. As such, the Court finds that Defendant is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law,” Cronk wrote.

Motion for sanctions

Also ruled on was a motion for sanctions filed by attorneys for Mahaska County. The motion asked that the Court sanction attorneys for the Cities, alleging that they failed to disclose “adverse legal controlling authority to the court.” Adverse legal controlling authority is considered a previously decided controlling/binding legal matter that was decided contrary to the arguments an attorney is making and was decided in a court/tribunal that would have the same jurisdiction as a legal matter an attorney is presently arguing.

In her ruling, Cronk found that the cases cited by attorneys for Mahaska County did not have a controlling legal authority over the present case.

“Further, the fact that neither Defendant’s prior counsel nor the Court cited these sources when the agreement’s legality was first argued in early 2018 cuts against Defendant’s argument. The Court does not think the situation here is the conduct envisioned to be prohibited by Rule 1.413,” Cronk wrote in her ruling.

Cronk further found that additional charges pertaining to the ongoing dilemma between the Cities and Mahaska County relating to a farm-to-market road affected by the airport, filed by the Cities against the County, which were later dropped by the Cities, were not frivolous. The motion for sanctions alleged the two counts to be filed in bad faith.

“The letter sent by Mahaska County Engineer, Jerome T. Nusbaum, submitted as Plaintiffs’ Exhibit D, makes the statement that the street would be closed upon the environmental determination by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Without reaching the merits of the promissory estoppel claim, the Court finds the claim to be reasonable and made in good faith regarding the closure of 220th Street,” Cronk found.

Currently, a trial is scheduled for November 2020 to address the only remaining legal matter in this case, that being the County’s counterclaim to the Cities lawsuit, which relates to the closure of 220th street. In this case, all other matters have been decided on summary judgment in in favor of the Cities.

A separate lawsuit pertaining to the regional airport, Site A Landowners vs Cities of Oskaloosa, Pella, and Mahaska County, is currently pending in Mahaska County District Court. That suit was filed by a group of landowners affected by the airport project against all three entities involved in the project. Motions for summary judgement in that case are currently pending, with rulings expected in the near future.

Posted by on Sep 14 2020. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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