MASON CITY — City Councilman Alex Kuhn has died, his family confirmed Friday.
Details concerning his death have not been released.
Kuhn, 34, a business development representative for Henkel Construction Co., was elected to the Mason City Council in 2011 and re-elected in 2015.
Previously, he worked as a substitute teacher for Mason City Schools and as campaign and marketing manager for the United Way of North Central Iowa.
But his passion was politics and he was active in Democratic activities all of his adult life. His father Mark, a Floyd County supervisor, was a state legislator for many years. Alex Kuhn got his baptism in politics while working as a legislative clerk for his father.
When he ran for the City Council in 2011, he recalled what he learned when he worked for his father.
“I saw what you can do to stand up for people who don’t have a voice,” he said.
As a city councilman, he spearheaded the effort that led to the council’s passage of a “disorderly premises” law holding property owners responsible for some crimes committed on or near their properties.
Also, he worked diligently to help put together the Iowa Reinvestment Act proposal in which the city is seeking state funds to help with a massive downtown redevelopment project.
Kuhn is survived by two sons.
HAMPTON — The Franklin County Historic Jail is ready to begin accepting guests.
Listed on the National Register of Historic places, the Italianate-style home on Central Avenue East in Hampton once housed the county’s inmates and served as the sheriff’s personal residence.
It hasn’t booked a real prisoner since the 1980s, but later this month will begin its new life as a host for historical role playing.
Owner-operator Mark Gudmundsen says his friends recently tested it out, going through the process of getting booked, put in an isolation cell and spending the night in one of the home’s three steel cells.
They’ll even get to spend time in the prison yard, which is still surrounded by tall chain-link fence and three strands of barbed wire.
“It’ll be fun,” Gudmundsen said. “When we played with the other guys that came it was kind of fun to do it. It was interesting for them.”
He still plans to open a museum in the rest of the house, but isn’t finished with construction. The restoration is still underway.
The impending opening of the jail portion is especially exciting for Gudmundsen, because three months ago his dreams of operating the role-playing business were facing obstacles.
Although Gudmundsen says he ran his plans by city officials prior to buying the building, he was informed in March that his business would violate Hampton’s zoning ordinances that restrict adult-oriented businesses to industrial areas.
That came after the existence of Gudmundsen’s personal website was made public, which he suspects was not a coincidence.
The website features photos and writings that “explore the concept of extreme non-sexual bondage.” It includes photographs of Gudmundsen in various types of restraints, including chains and cages.
Gudmundsen always maintained the site was personal and not indicative of what he planned for his business, which has its own website, hamptonjail.com.
Officials never said exactly what about the business would violate the laws.
On Friday, City Manager Ron Dundt said officials won’t take action unless they believe the business is violating the city code.
“He’s aware and he needs to run a business that’s in compliance, so if we determine that he is doing something that isn’t in compliance then we would do something about it,” Dundt said.
Hampton Chamber Executive Director Newton Grotzinger has stopped in the jail to see Gudmundsen’s progress.
The jail’s application to the chamber remains on hold until it opens and officials can see what the business is like, Grotzinger said.
“We just wish him the best,” he said. “We’ll just see what he comes up with. ... He’s been working hard on it.”
Gudmundsen, who lives in the former sheriff’s quarters on the second floor, says he’s made some changes to his booking process in order to be sure he complies with the ordinance.
First, there will be no pat-down.
During booking, role players will run their fingers through their own hair, stick out their tongue, run their fingers over their gums and show Gudmundsen they’re not hiding anything behind their ears.
“What I say (next is), now, if we were continuing the search, this is what would happen,” he said. “And I’d tell them what happens, because I’m not going to go any further than that.”
In addition, the booking process requires role players to sign a contract saying they’ll abide by Hampton’s vice ordinance while at the Franklin County Historic Jail.
“On (hamptonjail.com) I now actually have the city ordinance for Hampton and I am telling people ‘Read that ordinance because you’re going to be signing and initialling that you won’t be doing anything on there that’s on that ordinance,’ because I’m covering my butt on this.
“People are going, ‘Aren’t you kind of overkilling?’ I said, ‘Yes. I am.’”
OSAGE — A tearful Courtney Johnson said in court Friday that she has felt guilt and sorrow since the day last summer when she struck and killed bicyclist Grace Harken while texting and driving near Osage.
“A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of Grace,” said Johnson, 24, of Osage.
She said although she never met Harken, she has learned since the accident that she and the 20-year-old from Riceville had a shared passion to “be an advocate for others.”
Mitchell County Magistrate Nicholas Larson fined Johnson $1,000 and suspended her driver’s license for 180 days for using an electronic communication device while driving, with an enhanced penalty for causing a fatality, a simple misdemeanor.
He said he would waive half of the fine if Johnson performs 50 hours of community service by speaking in places such as schools about the dangers of texting while driving.
Johnson also received a $250 fine for driving too close to a bicyclist.(tncms-asset)435a407c-349d-11e6-8541-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)
Larson said although Johnson did not intend to cause Harken’s death, “one of the worst things that could happen did happen.”
Harken was a student at Prairie Bible College in Alberta, Canada, where she was enrolled in the sports ministry and management program. She was the 2013 Miss Mitchell County Fair Queen.
Assistant Mitchell County Attorney Aaron Murphy said Iowa law is not clear about the penalties for texting and driving resulting in a fatality.
He said it appears the maximum penalty is a $1,000 fine and a 180-day driver’s license suspension, but other prosecutors have told him 30 days in jail is possible for other simple misdemeanors.
Murphy said Harken’s family asked him about jail time.
Although they did not urge it, they told him “it would not be inappropriate,” he said.
Murphy said he did not feel comfortable making a recommendation for jail time due to the uncertainty about it being legal, and left the matter to Larson’s discretion.
No one from Harken’s family was in court Friday.
Murphy said the Harkens “have been through a lot,” but they understand “this is a tragedy for everyone involved.”
Johnson’s attorney, Richard Piscopo Jr., said the accident on July 29, 2015, in which both Harken and Johnson were headed east on Highway 218, was the result of “a perfect storm” of circumstances.
He said Johnson, a social worker, was driving into the rising sun on a road with no bicycle path and was answering a text from a foster parent when she struck Harken. Although there was no designated path, Harken as a cyclist had the right to be on the road.
Piscopo said the Harken family has “had a loss they will never recover from.”
However, he said Johnson is active in her community and in her church.
“It’s her life’s work to help others,” he said, noting that’s what she was doing on the day of the accident.
Piscopo said he thinks the community would be better served if Johnson were able to keep her driver’s license so she can work and that she perform community service as part of her sentence.
Johnson said she has lost her job as a social worker because of the accident, but hopes to find another position in that field.
Johnson said she has thought many times about meeting with Harken’s family, “but I have not found the courage.”
A phone call from the Globe Gazette to the home of Harken’s parents, Darrel and Christine Harken of Riceville, was not returned Friday afternoon.
OSAGE | A former Mitchell County employee and current Osage School Board member was arrested July 14 for felony second-degree theft.
Tracey L. Mooberry, 46, Osage, allegedly misappropriated funds while employed at the Mitchell County Treasurer's Office, according to a criminal complaint.
“It appears all the money was paid back and there was no financial loss to the county,” County Attorney Mark Walk said during an emergency Mitchell County Board of Supervisors meeting Friday morning. “However, that doesn’t make it right.”
Although employed as a clerk with the Treasurer’s Office from Feb. 28, 2011, to May 13, 2016, Walk said the misappropriation of funds appeared to have taken place in the last six weeks of Mooberry’s employment.
Walk said the alleged theft appeared to be a case of check kiting, a form of fraud that uses non-existent funds for unauthorized credit.
“It appears she was constantly shifting money to pay back money she had borrowed," he said.
In this case, Walk said, a person would pay their tax bill in cash at the treasurer's office. He then alleged Moobery would keep a portion of that cash.
When the next person would come in to pay their bill, a portion of that payment would be used to finish paying the previous bill.
“Money was shifted from person after person to keep paying the taxes,” said Walk. “It appears to have been a small amount each time and only occurred in April and May.”
Walk said he assumed the money — which was later repaid — was being taken to pay bills. "It made no sense to keep going to this extent," he said.
Record discrepancies led to the discovery, Walk said.
"If it hadn't been for a small thing, a physical action, we would never have known," he said, but declined to elaborate since it was related to the case.
However, he did say it became apparent there was a bigger issue when people saw their name appear on the real estate tax sale list.
“People were bringing in their receipts to say they had paid their bills,” said Walk.
Walk wouldn't say whether the courthouse's surveillance cameras assisted in the investigation.
Mooberry is also a member of the Mitchell County Conservation Board and the Osage School Board.
Walk said the conservation board could choose to remove her from the board, but advised them to wait.
"Everyone is innocent until proven guilty," he said.
Superintendent Barb Schwamman had no comment as to whether Mooberry would remain on the School Board.
"We are checking with school board policy and with our school attorney for legal counsel," she said.
The School Board's next meeting is July 18.
Mooberry was arraigned in magistrate court on Friday and was released under the supervision of the Department of Correctional Services.
Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. July 29.