Just Say No Casino Coalition Receives Response to Open Records Request

By Addison Speck, Reporter

LINN COUNTY, Iowa — Earlier this month, the Just Say No Casino coalition filed an open records request to see emails between the Linn County Gaming Association and casino investors. The requested records from Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson and city council member Justin Shields. On Thursday, they got a response, but not the one they wanted.

"Council member Shields has not responded. Council member Oleson has responded by stating he doesn't have any on his county email and all his email with his investors have been through personal email, but every correspondence has been miraculously deleted," said Todd Henderson, a member of the Just Say No Casino coalition.

Both Shields and Oleson are on the board of the Linn County Gaming Association. That's the non-profit that would hold a casino license if voters approve the March 5th referendum and the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission grants a license. The Just Say No Casino campaign has been suspicious of the negotiations about the amount of money that the proposed casino would give back to the county.

"This deal was cut back in October, behind closed doors. We want to know why it was so one-sided. The absolute bare-minimum required by law of 3 percent? What concessions did we get out of that," said Henderson.

Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson responded to the campaign's open records request and accusations against the Linn County Gaming Association. "The vote no side has been trying to sidetrack everyone on side issues. Issues that are not really related or relevant to what people are going to be voting on, which is whether or not you want gaming in Linn County," Oleson said.

He told TV9 he used his personal email account for a few items related to the Linn County Gaming Association and agrees that is public information. But, he says he cleaned out his email last month, before the request was made. Even if he hadn't, he says he would have nothing to hide. "There's only a few and it's like, can you attend this meeting on Friday? Sure. They were not substantive in nature," Oleson said.

"His other excuse for not telling us when he met in person with these individuals is that his outlook isn't working," said Henderson. But Oleson said he's working on it. "I am still researching all the days we met so I can provide them with my outlook calendar," he said.

Those with Just Say No say it's a lack of transparency contributing to voter skepticism. They question why casino investors would give 3 percent when other surrounding casinos give more. But Oleson argues it's actually 3 to 4.5 percent and that they would still be giving more than their opposition.
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