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Lawsuit: Mason City Chamber claims hotel developer has 'unclean hands'

MASON CITY | The Mason City Chamber of Commerce says a San Diego developer who failed to build a downtown hotel has "unclean hands," according to court documents.

In a lawsuit filed against the city and the Chamber July 18 in Cerro Gordo County District Court, Philip Chodur of G8 Development makes several claims, namely that the city was in breach of contract.

The Mason City Chamber of Commerce, in recent court filings, responded that G8 Development’s contract is with the city of Mason City, not with the Chamber.

Chamber response to lawsuit

Much like the city, the Chamber in court documents rejected almost all of the claims made in lawsuit filed by G8, which failed to build a downtown hotel.

"Plaintiff's claims are barred by the doctrine of unclean hands," the response said.

The doctrine argument is a defense in which the defendant argues that the plaintiff is acting unethically or has acted in bad faith, with "unclean hands.”

The term is used within contract law. Through the doctrine, the plaintiff is not entitled to a remedy since the plaintiff has “unclean hands.”

The Chamber claims G8 acted in bad faith with the city of Mason City, court documents say, and asks the suit be dismissed with costs assessed to the developer. 

Seth R. Delutri, the Chamber's Des Moines-based attorney, also requested a jury trial. 

G8's petition names Chamber Director Robin Anderson and her alleged role in the interference.


 “Upon information and belief, the Chamber intentionally and improperly interfered with the Development Contract by, among other things, Robin Anderson, in her capacity as Director of the Chamber, having ‘secret’ meetings with certain members of the City Council and encouraging them to terminate the G8 Development Contract in favor of another proposal being offered by an entity known as Gatehouse Capital," the petition states.

G8 Development claims that the interference and alleged “secret meetings” caused the city to terminate the development contract, affecting the company's ability to perform and complete its obligations under the contract.

The Chamber denied the existence of secret meetings and denies that it interfered with the contract. 

When the city terminated the development contract, G8 Development claims the termination was not in good faith. At that time, the city said the developer had defaulted on the project.

“Defendant City of Mason City properly terminated the Contract because Plaintiff materially breached the Contract by not performing as required and/or because it failed to act in good faith in performance of the Contract,” the Chamber’s response said.

Chodur filed a similar lawsuit alleging the city of Vista, California, breached its contract with him on a condominium, commercial and office space project, according to an article published in the San Diego Union Tribune in October 2015. The suit claimed the city changed agreements for the project.

Chodur filed a claim with the city for $3 million, which was rejected. He then filed a suit for breach of contract, which is still pending.

Tom Thoma / Picasa 


Mason City theatre revives 'Andrews Sisters' traveling show

MASON CITY | The Andrews Sisters are touring again.

Well, not the real Andrews Sisters, but the Stebens Children’s Theatre traveling show of the same name.

The Andrews Sisters was the theater’s first touring production some 13 years ago, and it has been revived for its third tour of duty.

“There’s nothing better to take to nursing homes than musical revues,” said Tom Ballmer, executive director of SCT.

But first, it opens for public performances Saturday and Sunday on the SCT main stage.

“They are my favorite girl group from the World War II era,” Ballmer said. “When I saw them in the movies, I thought even as a kid these are really great singers -- great harmony, great choreography. They’re very entertaining.”

The show is filled with nostalgic novelty songs like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “Chattanooga Choo Choo.”

“It’s one great song after another, as far as I’m concerned,” Ballmer said.

He’s tied the songs together with what he called a “very thin plot.” Two girls, Tillie and Pepper, are auditioning to replace Patty Andrews, who wants to go solo.

Tillie and Pepper are played by Sophia Willis and Annaliese Emmons, respectively. The Andrews Sisters are Gabreyl Gaubatz as Maxene, Amelia Ouverson as LaVerne, and Ava Ciavarelli as Patty. Makenna Hansen and Sophia Ciavarelli split the role of Charlie, their sound person.

“The fact that it’s an all-girl show is pretty fun,” Willis said.

“Tom does a good job depicting who these women were,” Gaubatz said, adding that they were successful women during a really important time.

Willis jokingly suggested there may have been some typecasting involved.

“We’re all very similar to our characters,” Willis said. “We play that up.”

“We each bring something unique to our character,” Emmons added. “It’s pretty fun to get into the character of somebody in the 1940s.”

There’s an Andrews trivia contest in the middle of the show, and the characters interact with the audience.

“It’s what the Andrews Sisters actually did,” Gaubatz said.

Though they have fun, they are serious about their craft.

“We’re dedicated to this,” Willis said. “We all put in a lot of work.”

“It’s really doing something we love,” Gaubatz said.

“We’re involved in a ton of other stuff,” she added. “We’re just involved kids. This definitely builds character. It prepares us for college, and balancing priorities.”

They’re also good friends.

“A lot of time outside of Stebens we do spend with each other, so we have a lot of fun,” Willis said.

“We’re kind of like this little family,” Emmons said.

They’re looking forward to sharing the show with audiences, and Ballmer said they’re “looking for gigs.”

“I’m really excited for people to see it,” Willis said. “It’s just a good show. You will not regret it.”

Upmeyer: Further talks needed on Clear Lake dock

CLEAR LAKE | As the longest dock in Clear Lake awaits its fate on whether it will be shortened, Linda Upmeyer wants both Tim Entner and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to continue talking about what should be done.

Upmeyer, the state House Speaker, told the Globe Gazette Wednesday that all interested parties should hold some sort of gathering later this month to discuss the Sunset Bay Marina's future.

"I hesitate to call it a meeting ... because in fairness, my request were they were to have a conversation," she said. "It may be a full-fledged meeting with a lot of people ... or it may just be some people going out to look at the dock."

The current dilemma involves a contract between Tim Entner's late father, Dale, and the local DNR office. Currently, a variance in the contract allows the dock to remain 496 feet long, despite state regulations established in 2008 that limited private docks to be a maximum of 300 feet from the shoreline.

Entner wants to keep the waiver, while the DNR says that whoever buys the dock from him — Dale's contract states that ownership cannot transfer between family members — must follow current law.

Upmeyer said she is still in "listening mode" concerning her stance on the issue. She added she is unsure on whether she will attend any future meeting, citing that she doesn't want to be the leading voice on the dock's fate.

A date, time and location have not been set, as it was an informal request, according to Upmeyer.

"It was just about getting the two sides to have a conversation," she said.

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

Clear Lake's longest dock at Sunset Bay Marina could be drastically shortened should a contract waiver between its late owner and the Iowa DNR be discontinued, resulting in the loss of up to 70 boat slips.


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For and against get what they want: Voters will decide on bonds for Mason City downtown project

MASON CITY | Max Weaver has concerns about a proposed issuance of up to $14 million in bonds as part of the Gatehouse Capital project.

He inquired at Tuesday's City Council meeting about a deadline he would have to meet to petition for it to be on the November ballot.

As it turns out, he won't have to get the petitions.

On Wednesday, "Mason City Says YES," a citizens group that supports the downtown project, submitted signed petitions to City Administrator Brent Trout asking that the bond issue be put to a public vote.

So it will be on the Nov. 7 ballot along with a public vote on whether the city should enter into a lease agreement for the proposed multi-purpose center with the owners of Southbridge Mall. Also on the same ballot will be elections of a new mayor and three City Council members.

Loni Dirksen, head of "Mason City Says YES," said the River City Renaissance project is important for city growth. "This is a big deal," she said.

Though Dirksen enthusiastically supports the project, she said, "I agree with Max 100 percent that projects like this should be put to a public vote."

At its Sept. 19 meeting, the council will be asked to approve the issuance of general obligation urban renewal bonds, not to exceed $14 million.

Most of the money would be used to finance the city's part of the Gatehouse Capital hotel project that includes:

  • Mezzanine loan, $4.3 million.
  • The Music Man Square renovation, $3 million.
  • New Meredith Willson museum, $1.5 million.
  • Skywalk connection, $2.5 million.
  • Reserves for unexpected additional costs, $550,000.

Trout said the total also included $1.65 million for a performing arts pavilion that is part of the River City Renaissance Project and was not included in earlier estimates.

He said also that authorization of up to $18.75 million in bonds for the ice arena/multi-purpose arena project is now down to $12.55 million because a $6.5 million parking structure is no longer part of the overall plan.

Weaver said Tuesday he thinks the city is trying too hard to do the project and has not considered the operational costs that will come with it. He led the drive to get the first issue on the ballot.

Dirksen said, "I’m a strong believer in giving residents the opportunity to express support for this project to help our region grow and prosper. I hope the council will schedule some open forums to provide information about the project prior to Nov. 7."

Committee member Jon Prebeck said the project is important for the entire region. "For North Iowa to attract and retain young workers and young families, we need to make investments like this."

Proponents say the River City Renaissance project will have more than $15 million in private investment; could receive up to $10 million in state funding and has a total value of $33 million, with no increase in property taxes.

"If we do nothing, Mason City will continue to lose population, which will certainly lead to property tax increases since there will be fewer of us to pay for our schools and our local government services," said Dirksen.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Councilmen Bill Schickel and John Lee pointed out how the Vision Iowa project has been transformational for the city through increased property valuation, increased tourism and new jobs.

Dirksen said it was spurred by passage of a $9.2 million bond referendum. She is confident voters will approve this year's proposal.

The $33 million River City Renaissance Project includes a 106-room hotel; a new Meredith Willson Museum; a skywalk connecting the hotel/museum to The Music Man Square; a conference center in The Music Man Square; an indoor/outdoor performing arts pavilion on the Federal Avenue Plaza and an ice/multi-purpose arena in the area of the mall that formerly housed the J.C. Penney store.