Supervisors Agree to Take E911 and Emergency Management To Court

Mahaska County Supervisors Willie Van Weelden, Mark Groenendyk, and Steve Wanders agreed to file suit against Mahaska E911 and Emergency Management boards at their meeting on Tuesday.

Mahaska County Supervisors Willie Van Weelden, Mark Groenendyk, and Steve Wanders agreed to file suit against Mahaska E911 and Emergency Management boards at their meeting on Tuesday.

Oskaloosa, Iowa – In other action at Tuesday’s Mahaska County Board of Supervisors, the board made the decision to take the Mahaska 911 Board and Mahaska County Emergency Management to court over the 28E agreement the two boards put in place back in 2015.

“What do we want to do Mark,” asked Mahaska County Supervisor Board Chairman Willie Van Weelden of Supervisor Mark Groenendyk.

“Well it says here consider action on litigation. I guess as a board, we’ve pointed out numerous, what we believe is illegal activity,” said Groenendyk. “We’ve talked about this since May 22, when this whole started, we asked who had the authority to be doing what. Nobody knew. And so numerous histories started to rising. There’s been a lot of questions and there’s no answers.”

“I guess we continually try to take actions or steps to get everybody to the table and sit down and talk, and that’s been ineffective,” said Groenendyk. “I don’t think there’s of direction left.”

“We need to decide if we’re gonna deal with illegal behavior in our county or if we’re gonna try and straighten it,” added Groenendyk. “I guess that’s where my thoughts are.”

“What are the Supervisors going to put up with,” said Groenendyk. “We took an oath, I took an oath. This is not a place I want to go, I’ll say that right up front.”

“Well neither do I but we are. We either drop this thing and go on and continue to do business in a way I think isn’t quite correct, or we can challenge it,” added Van Weelden. “I think we’ve reached out, we’ve been told no we don’t want to sit down and meet. Would that be correct?”

“That’s the way I understand the letters,” replied Groenendyk.

“I was hoping we’d sit down at the table and try and negotiate some of this, but the other side has sent us a letter and said no, we’re not going to do that,” added Van Weelden. “Jamey, that’s what the letter said.”

“You want to sit at a table and negotiate, we’ll sit at a table,” said Van Weelden. “That what I understood the letter. Would that be correct Mark?”

“The letter said we’re not even a part to this,” Groendyk said. “So we can’t even contest it.”

“When you get backed into a corner, what do you do?” Asked Van Weelden.

“I thought the letter said we were willing to sit down and talk but we’re not willing to separate at this time,” said Mahaska County Sheriff Russ Van Renterghem, who is also the Chairman for Mahaska County Emergency Management.

“Well the problem is, the joining is the illegal part of it,” replied Groenendyk. “If you’re not going to separate, how are you going to make it legal?”

“There again, it’s a matter of opinion on what is or is not legal,” responded Van Renterghem, who explained that the EMA and 911 attorneys have said that it is legal.

The EMA and 911 signed a 28E agreement for Emergency Management to manage the 911 operations. At the time, current Mahaska County Attorney Jim Blomgren, EMA’s attorney Carl Salmons, and the Iowa Attorney Generals office all agreed there was no issue with the agreement.

With the litigation from the Mahaska County Board of Supervisors in place, no further work on purchasing a new emergency radio system for first responders is possible, because the Supervisors have threatened a court injunction if the EMA Board goes any further in that matter.

“I thought, unless I misread it, I thought all parties were willing to sit down and talk about this,” said Van Renterghem, who said there is no willingness to separate the 28E agreement between Mahaska 911 and Mahaska County Emergency Management.

“Well that’s the issue, because right now we do have a 28E signed from 1990 which is not clearly being followed. There’s never been a rescission of that 28E at all. And so, a lot of this stuff we don’t talk about,” added Groenendyk. “I’ll be honest, I don’t think a lot of people even understand it.”

“We’ve talked about stuff here at the meetings that the information does not get passed along to the EMA or the 911 boards,” said Groenendyk. “That’s the head of it.”

“We want to talk, but we’re not going to do anything. That’s what I’m hearing,” said Groenendyk.

“It’s illegal and inappropriate today, does it change tomorrow?” asked Groenendyk.

“No,” replied Van Weelden. “We’ve got to reach some common ground and I don’t see that happening if we just sit here.”

“I guess…. this is going to be litigation, I’d just as soon as not get into all the details. A lot of this has been talked about, has been written down,” said Groenendyk.

“I don’t want to spend any more money either but, but sometimes you have to take a stand,” said Van Weelden. “And that’s been my argument, is this funding of the thing.”

“Like I say, we either do or we don’t,” added Van Weelden. “I don’t like the direction it’s going but.”

“You give into illegal activity today, it doesn’t change tomorrow, then you get more and more involvement, then you’ve got a bigger mess,” added Groenendyk.

“I make a motion for the attorneys to file suit and give them the authority to take whatever means necessary to protect our interests,” said Groenendyk.

“I second that,” said Steve Wanders.

“Motion made and seconded, any further discussion?” Van Weelden asked of the other Supervisors.

“The only thing I’d like to say is I hope it brings everybody to the table by doing this, because, this is kind of ridiculous,” said Wanders.

“All in favor say aye,” said Van Weelden.

All three Supervisors agreed to the motion.

The Mahaska County E911 Service Board is being represented by Harrison, Moreland, Webber, Simplot & Maxwell.

Mahaska County E911 Service Board letter to the Mahaska County Board of Supervisors:

Dear Mahaska County Board of Supervisors:

Please be advised that the E911 Service Board has retained this law firm to represent its interests. I am writing in response to your letter and proposed Petition dated June 21, 2018. In the letter and Petition, the Board of Supervisors claims the 2015 28E Agreement between E911 Service Board and the Emergency Management Commission is void, or voidable, for a variety of reasons. The letter requests the E911 Board and the Emergency Management Commission to modify its 28E Agreement.

It is the E911 Board’s position that the 2015 28E Agreement is valid and binding between the E911 Board and the Emergency Management Commission. It is my opinion, that the Board of Supervisors has no standing to legally challenge the 2015 28E agreement, in which the Board of Supervisors is not a party.

While the E911 Service Board is satisfied with the current 28E structure, it is receptive to reviewing recommendations and suggestions that will allow it to better serve the public. If the Board of Supervisors has proposed changes to the 28E Agreement, the Service Board will certainly evaluate these proposals. However, the E911 Service Board is not willing to shift the duties of providing 911 services from the Emergency Management Commission.

If the Board of Supervisors chooses to file suit, the Service Board will vigorously defend the current 28E structure between the E911 Service Board and the Emergency Management Commission.

A letter from Mahaska County Emergency Management attorney Michael Mahaffey reads as follows:

Dear Board of Supervisors:

As you are already aware, I represent the Mahaska County Emergency Management Commission in the controversy with the Board of Supervisors.

I have reviewed the letter of August 22, 2018 to you from the new legal counsel for the E911 Service Board, Michael J. Moreland. I wanted you to know that I concur with the thoughts and analysis set forth in that letter and that the Mahaska County Emergency Management Commission also believes that the 2015 28E Agreement is valid and was properly vetted by everyone at that time. I also agree that any proposed changes to the 28E Agreement will be evaluated.

Thank you kindly for your consideration of this letter,

Oskaloosa News spoke with Mahaska County Emergency Management Chairperson Russ Van Renterghem after the Supervisors meeting.

“Both boards, both EMA and 911, we have to trust our attorneys. Both of the attorneys are saying it is a legal 28E agreement. Both of them are saying, that they don’t feel the Board of Supervisors has a legal standing to make this challenge. Both of them said they are willing to vigorously defend us if it goes to court,” said Van Renterghem. “I can’t help but think, I know there was several attorneys looking over this 28E when it was adopted.”

Van Renterghem wasn’t the Mahaska County Sheriff at the time the 28E Agreement between E911 and EMA was adopted.

“There was several attorneys who reviewed it, and there’s several other counties in Iowa that operate the same way,” said Van Renterghem. “I’m not an attorney, I’ll be the first to admit that, but you heard me say in the meetings, ‘if you’re going to hire an attorney and pay them, you need to trust their advice’. That’s my standpoint as the Chairman of the EMA and as member of the 911 Board, I feel we have to trust our attorneys.”

“I think it’s unfortunate that yet another issue has to go to court involving Mahaska County. That wasn’t by the choice of the EMA Board or the 911 Board,” said Van Renterghem.

In regards to Groenendyk’s comment about the board and the use of the word illegal, Van Renterghem. “I don’t believe either board is doing anything illegally.”

“I’m very up to date on criminal law, some of this could be civil, could be a combination of civil and criminal. I’m not aware of any criminal activity going on with either board,” added Van Renterghem. “That’s why before any 28E agreements are ever entered into, it’s reviewed by attorneys from both sides.”

“Mark didn’t make any direct comments that any one person or any one member of these boards is doing anything criminal. His take on it and there again, he’s putting his trust in the Board of Supervisors attorney. I don’t even know who they have working for them now. I know it’s not the county attorney. I did think both he and Willie were incorrect, because the letter I read, I thought it was worded that we were willing to sit down and negotiate with them, but we were not willing to separate the two boards. We were not willing to pull 911 out from under EMA,” added Van Renterghem.

“I’ve said it all along. I’m very concerned, I don’t want to see our dispatching go backwards as a result of this ongoing legal battle,” said Van Renterghem. “I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. I’ll put our dispatchers up against any across the State of Iowa. We have good dispatchers. Jamey runs a tight ship over there, he really does.”

The Mahaska County Emergency Management Board will meet October 11th at 6:30 pm at the ISU Extension Office.

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Posted by on Sep 6 2018. 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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