MASON CITY | Citing Iowa open records law, Mason City officials did not name a city administrator finalist Friday afternoon at a city council meeting at City Hall.
Perry Buffington, the city's personnel director, told council members and the mayor that Chapter 22.7 of the state's open records law allows the council to withhold the finalist's name if he or she does not provide consent to its release to the public.
There are more than 70 exemptions that allow publicly funded officials to keep documents from the public. Related, any documents related to an action a government body takes to discuss matters in closed session are also exempt.
Mayor Bill Schickel said after the meeting he and the city council are looking for a candidate who brings a lot of energy, and considerable experience in city administration. The current candidate may fit those traits, he added.
"We don't have a time frame. Obviously, this will take some time," Schickel told reporters about the current state of negotiations. "If these negotiations are successful, this person is currently employed, and so there would be a transition period there. But we don't know exactly how long that would be."
There had been speculation that Clear Lake City Administrator Scott Flory was being considered, but Flory said via email Friday he wasn't being considered.
"The City of Mason City means a lot to me and I value the working relationship I've established with many Mason Citians over the 17 years I've been in N. Iowa," Flory said. "I think the CA (city administrator) position is a terrific opportunity for the right, person. But, I am not under consideration for the position."
The Globe Gazette submitted an open records request concerning the two months prior to when city officials decided not to pursue any of the five finalists.
The request mostly shows the process of how the first five finalists were interviewed, what questions were asked and other logistics. It doesn't indicate any specifics of why none of the five were chosen.
An email from Buffington to city council members, Schickel, Interim City Administrator Kevin Jacobson and other city officials on Feb. 21 indicated council members may have been interested in one of the five finalists or the current candidate being discussed.
There was a closed session at 5 p.m. Feb. 27 with a candidate, according to the email.
"Our plan would be for the council to remain in closed session following his departure to make a decision that night whether to select one of our current candidates or to decide to move forward with one of the other alternatives suggested by Kevin Jacobson," the email states.
Jacobson, the interim city administrator, said after Friday's meeting that alternative would have been to conduct a national search for a candidate.
He declined to comment whether the current candidate council is considering contacted city officials first or if the city contacted him.
City emails indicated the interview process for the initial five finalists were conducted in five panels.
Mayor Bill Schickel and council members Paul Adams and John Lee made up the first panel. Interim City Administrator Kevin Jacobson and council members John Jaszewski and Joshua Masson made up the second panel, and council members Will Symonds and Tom Thoma, along with Buffington, made up the third panel.
Other city officials were included in a separate panel, and Mason City Police Chief Jeff Brinkley and Superintendent of Recreation and Golf Brian Pauly led the candidates on a community tour, according to emails.
Most of the questions council members and Schickel asked concerned the candidates' history in past jobs, how they would execute the River City Renaissance Project, and how they would connect with the community.
Other questions asked the following:
WASHINGTON — Unwilling to yield, President Donald Trump and China's government escalated their trade clash Friday, with Beijing vowing to "counterattack with great strength" if Trump follows through on threats to impose tariffs on an additional $100 billion in Chinese goods.
Trump made his out-of-the-blue move when China threatened to retaliate for the first round of tariffs planned by the United States. But for someone who has long fashioned himself as a master negotiator, Trump left it unclear whether he was bluffing or willing to enter a protracted trade war pitting the world's two biggest economies against each other, with steep consequences for consumers, businesses and an already shaken stock market.
"They aren't going to bully him into backing down," said Stephen Moore, a former Trump campaign adviser who is now a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He said the Chinese "are going to have to make concessions — period."
The White House sent mixed signals on Friday as financial markets slid from investor concern about a significant trade fight. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC he was "cautiously optimistic" that the U.S. and China could reach an agreement before any tariffs are implemented but added, "there is the potential of a trade war."
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters the U.S. was "not in a trade war," adding, "China is the problem. Blame China, not Trump."
Trump's latest proposal intensified what was already shaping up to be the biggest trade battle for more than a half century. The U.S. bought more than $500 billion in goods from China last year and now is planning or considering penalties on some $150 billion of those imports. The U.S. sold about $130 billion in goods to China in 2017 and faces a potentially devastating hit to its market there if China responds in kind.
Global financial markets have fallen sharply as the world's two biggest economies squared off — the Dow Jones industrial average sank 572 points Friday.
Trump told advisers Thursday he was unhappy with China's decision to tax $50 billion in American products, including soybeans and small aircraft, in response to a U.S. move this week to impose tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods.
Rather than waiting weeks for the U.S. tariffs to be implemented, Trump backed a plan by Robert Lighthizer, his trade representative, and was encouraged by Peter Navarro, a top White House trade adviser, to seek the enhanced tariffs, upping the ante.
White House chief of staff John Kelly and Mnuchin concurred with the move, as did Kudlow, who traveled with the president to West Virginia.
China said negotiations were impossible under the circumstances but Trump officials said the president and his team remained in contact with President Xi Jinping and expressed hope to him of resolving the dispute through talks. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the two sides remained in "routine contact."
In Beijing, a Commerce Ministry spokesman said China doesn't want a trade war — but isn't afraid to fight one.
"If the U.S. side announces the list of products for $100 billion in tariffs, the Chinese side has fully prepared and will without hesitation counterattack with great strength," spokesman Gao Feng said. He gave no indication what measures Beijing might take.
Trump has also pushed for a crackdown on China's theft of U.S. intellectual property, and he criticized the World Trade Organization, an arbiter of trade disputes, in a tweet Friday for allegedly favoring China. Trump asserted the WTO gives the Asian superpower "tremendous perks and advantages, especially over the U.S."
U.S. officials have played down the threat of a broader trade dispute, saying a negotiated outcome is still possible. But economists warn that the tit-for-tat moves bear the hallmarks of a classic trade rift that could keep growing. Worry is intensifying among Republicans, who traditionally have favored liberalized trade.
"The administration needs to be thinking about the unintended consequences and what are those ripple effects, those domino effects, and what are the retaliatory actions that are likely to be taken," said South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the Senate's No. 3 Republican, in an interview with KDLT-TV in Sioux Falls.
The standoff over the trade penalties began last month when the U.S. slapped tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. China countered by announcing tariffs on $3 billion worth of U.S. products. The next day, the United States proposed the $50 billion in duties on Chinese imports, and Beijing lashed back within hours with a threat of further tariffs of its own.
Further escalation could be in the offing. The U.S. Treasury is working on plans to restrict Chinese technology investments in the United States. And there's talk that the U.S. could also put limits on visas for Chinese who want to visit or study in this country.
Kudlow told reporters the U.S. may provide a list of suggestions to China "as to what we would like to have come out of this," and those issues were under discussion.
CLEAR LAKE | A few years ago, author Dorothy Garlock was speaking at a Writers Workshop, giving tips to young writers on how to write a good novel.
She talked about description, dialogue, setting and character development but warned them, "Sooner or later you have to burn down the barn or have a tornado."
Garlock, who "burned down barns" for 40 years with 60 books to her credit, died Friday, April 6, at Oakwood Care Center in Clear Lake. She was 98.
Arrangements are pending at the Ward-Van Slyke Colonial Chapel in Clear Lake.
More than 20 million copies of her books are in print, in 18 languages. Her books, most in the historical fiction and romance novel genre, have been on the New York Times best seller list seven times. She was named one of the 10 most popular writers of women's fiction four years in a row, from 1985-1988.
Garlock has had an editor, agent and publicist for most of her writing career and was asked many times why she didn't move to New York, the haven of book publishing.
Her answer was simple -- she could write just as easily in Clear Lake as in New York, and she preferred Clear Lake.
She described herself as "a native of Texas who grew up in Oklahoma, married a Yankee and moved to Clear Lake."
She worked for 14 years as a writer and bookkeeper for the Clear Lake Mirror Reporter. In the summer of 1976, she and her husband, Herb, went on a trip south for the winter and, though she didn't know it at the time, it was the start of her writing career.
In retelling the story later, Garlock said she was bored to death because "there was nothing to do but play shuffleboard and go to potlucks."
So she went to a second-hand store, bought a manual typewriter for $50 and wrote an entire book that winter. She came home and, on a lark, entered it into a contest, and won. One of the contest judges, an agent, sold the book to a publisher, thus beginning her long career as an author.
Though all of her books were fiction, she was a stickler for detail. She once placed a call from her home in Clear Lake to the Louisiana State Police in Baton Rouge to ask what color uniforms they wore. It was a small detail in one of her books but she wanted to get it right.
Garlock maintained a wry sense of humor all of her life but was protective about some things. Asked by an interviewer several years ago about her earnings, she said smugly, "I do all right."
She said one of the advantages of being a writer is "you always have something to do when you get up in the morning."
Her advice to young writers: "Start. You'll never get anything done unless you start -- and don't rely on family and friends to tell you whether your work is good. You know what they'll say."
An interviewer once asked her to describe the satisfaction she gets from her work. She said she knows, "Somewhere in the world, there is someone sitting on a toilet reading one of my books."