Marion Council to Hold Hearing & Make Final Decision in Long-Running Mayor Residency Dispute
By Jill Kasparie, Reporter
MARION, Iowa - The Marion City Council will meet Tuesday night to decide if the current mayor can fulfill the remaining two years of his term.
The issue stems from concerns about whether or not Mayor Allen "Snooks" Bouska actually lives in Marion. Bouska said he has two homes, one in town and the other in Hiawatha. In an earlier interview, the mayor said he spends about 70 percent of his time in his Marion home.
Last month, a group of people submitted a petition requesting a hearing to determine if the mayor is meeting residency requirements set out by Iowa code.
Council members said they've never really done anything like this. After receiving this petition back in December, city leaders started looking into their options and discovered what they had to do.
Tuesday Marion’s city council chambers won't just be a room for a council meeting; it'll be more like a courtroom.
"The meeting tomorrow is to determine the residency issue of the mayor, the current mayor of Marion,” said Councilman Joe Spinks.
"They are deciding if there is a vacancy. The reason for the vacancy would be if he lives here or not,” said City Manager Lon Pluckhahn.
Pluckhahn said the hearing will be complete with lawyers, witnesses and even evidence.
"Each side -- I guess you could call them that -- will have an opportunity to present their case. The petitioners will have the opportunity to present evidence for why they feel that the mayor is not a resident of Marion. The mayor will be able to provide evidence to demonstrate that he is the mayor of Marion,” Pluckhahn said.
Spinks said he would be running the hearing.
"I will be really nervous tomorrow (Tuesday) night,” Spinks said.
He wants to make it clear that Iowa code requires them to hold this hearing. The code said if the status of an officeholder is in question and a petition is presented with at least 25 signatures, they shall convene within 30 days to consider whether a vacancy exists.
"It's not an ‘if' we can have it or ‘do we want to' have it, we ‘shall’ have it,” Spinks said.
He and four other Council members will serve as the jury in this case, making the ultimate decision on this residency issue. Some city leaders said that would be the tough part.
"Personally, I think it's very odd the way the state code is written on this that if you have a member of an elected body, you are asking the other members of that same elected body to decide whether they should stay or go,” Pluckhahn said.
"It's going to be tough for me having to work side-by-side with the mayor on our meetings and everything, but I'll have to put that aside, that thinking aside and think ‘okay, we have to get the facts out’,” Spinks said.
The public will also get a chance to speak at the meeting. After Tuesday’s hearing, council members will go into a closed session to deliberate. Iowa code gives the council seven days to decide. The hearing starts at 6:00 p.m. at Marion City Hall at 1225 6th Ave. in Marion. It is open to the public.
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