Recent Articles

Sen. Roby Smith barked up the wrong tree defending Davenport dog kennel owner

State Sen. Roby Smith’s conduct in bullying Iowa Department of Agriculture staff on behalf of a constituent and raising the possibility of gun violence was beyond disturbing.

If you missed Clark Kauffman’s story in Iowa Capital Dispatch, you can read it here.

The constituent, Davenport kennel owner Robert Burns, couldn’t have been more pleased that penalties against his business for animal-welfare violations were reduced after Smith joined him in a two-hour phone call with top agency staff. And for good reason.

‘Like he was my lawyer:’ State Sen. Roby Smith intervened in Davenport animal-welfare case

The owner of a Davenport dog kennel says state regulators scaled back their punishment against his business this summer after a state legislator intervened in the case on his behalf.

Earlier this summer, the Animal Playground boarding kennel in Davenport, run by Robert Burns, was visited by state inspectors working for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. At the time, the kennel was supposed to be shut down due to a license suspension triggered by a series of serious regulatory violations.

The kennel, however, was in full operation with 40 dogs milling about, inspectors reported.

Iowa Farm Bureau finances revealed by Investigate Midwest and Watchdog Writers Group reporting

The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting and the Watchdog Writers Group reported Thursday (10/7) on the Iowa Farm Bureau and how it has profited from funds generated by its insurance subsidiary.

"The political activities of farm bureaus at the state and federal level are well-documented. But the scope of the Iowa Farm Bureau’s sprawling financial operations is less understood. Through expanded investments, it has reaped massive profits. Over the past decade, its total revenue has increased about 200 percent. And, lately, about 80 percent of it comes from investments, according to tax documents. No other farm bureau even approaches that ratio."

CLICK HERE to read the full article.

Developer of senior housing in Muscatine agrees to $8,000 fine for allowing runoff to pollute Mad Creek

A former LeClaire developer now living in West Des Moines has agreed to pay an $8,000 fine for storm water runoff violations at a senior housing site in Muscatine that polluted the nearby Mad Creek.

James Bergman, of JNB Oak Park LP, signed the administrative consent order with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) last month. Bergman was one of the developers of Thomas Place Senior Housing in Bettendorf.

Cricket Hollow Zoo owners ordered to pay $70,000 or serve jail time for violating court order

The owners of Manchester’s Cricket Hollow Zoo have been ordered to pay $70,000 or serve five months in jail for violating court orders regarding the relocation of animals at their roadside attraction.

The ruling this week in the contempt-of-court case against Pamela and Thomas Sellner comes three days after the Iowa Supreme Court declined to review a lower court decision in the case that led to zoo’s closure in 2019.

In that case, a group of Iowans assisted by animal rights advocates sued the Sellners, alleging numerous violations of Iowa’s animal neglect laws. A judge ruled in their favor and effectively ordered the zoo closed with many of the animals to be relocated to wildlife sanctuaries in other states.

READ MORE from the Iowa Capital Dispatch

Lee Enterprise, Inc. reports third quarter earnings of $3.74 million, 56 cents per share

Lee Enterprises, Inc. – owner of both daily newspapers in the Quad Cities – reported Thursday (7/5) it earned $3.74 million, 56 cents per share, during the third quarter ended June 27.

That compares with a loss of $727,000, 23 cents per share, for the same period a year ago.

On a pro forma basis to reflect acquisition of Berkshire Hathaway Media and Buffalo News last year, total operating revenue fell 4.7 percent and total advertising revenue was down 9.3 percent compared with the same quarter a year ago.

Court of Appeals upholds judge's decision closing Cricket Hollow Zoo for 'deplorable conditions'

Deputy Editor, Iowa Capital Dispatch

The Iowa Court of Appeals has ruled the owners of Manchester’s Cricket Hollow Zoo were not denied a fair trial by a judge who closed the attraction after citing the “deplorable” conditions she observed there.

The two owners of the Cricket Hollow, Pamela and Thomas Sellner of Manchester, had appealed a 2019 court ruling declaring the zoo to be a public nuisance. In briefs filed with the court, attorneys for the Sellners argued that the trial judge, Monica Zrinyi Wittig, “took an advocacy role” on the side of the animal rights groups that helped a group of Iowans sue to close the zoo by “criticizing and arguing with” the Sellners and their witnesses.

In their appeal, the Sellners cited comments made to their attorney by Judge Wittig shortly after all of the parties visited the zoo on the first day of trial.

CLICK HERE to read entire article on Iowa Capital Dispatch web site.

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