Hard-hitting editorial by QCTimes.
Quad-City Times editorial board May 7, 2017Q
Hours of testimony. Reams of documents. Months-worth of email chains.
The past 18 months of political upheaval in Muscatine has been laid bare because of the impeachment trial of Mayor Diana Broderson. And after listening, reading and culling, there’s only one reasonable conclusion for Muscatine City Council, which is expected to vote Thursday: Broderson’s ouster would be an egregious abuse of power.
Kill the resolution to remove Broderson from office and, instead, beat her at the ballot box in November.
There’s no doubt that Broderson entered office in 2016 without a clear understanding of her duties. But all the evidence suggests a clumsy first-time politician trapped in a battle of personalities within City Hall. Rampant, benign bumbling is not an impeachable offense. Nor is being a liberal in a town long run by conservatives.
Put bluntly, the so-called charges against her, and associated facts, in no way suggest negligence or dubious intent. In fact, they are but a long list of petty grievances compiled by Muscatine administrators and council members themselves. It’s now that very City Council, which initiated this mess by illegally stripping Broderson’s power, that is judge and jury of a kangaroo court that should never have existed.
Prosecutors spent copious amounts of time, for example, hammering away on the fact Broderson held monthly Coffee with the Mayor confabs. It’s an official act, because of the title and use of letterhead, the prosecution contends. Such an act requires City Council approval under local code.
Yes. This is an actual charge that could fuel a mayoral removal that’s almost unheard of anywhere in the country.
How about another?
Broderson discussed various issues with city staff without first seeking City Administrator Gregg Mandsager’s permission. Apparently, bringing a pothole directly to the attention of public works staff, too, is a violation of city code if done by the mayor without consent of the unelected administrator.
One more? Sure.
Broderson dared send out a political mailer — using campaign funds — calling her political opponents “good old boys.” Allegedly, even such a staple of small-town American politics violates city code, because it disparages elected officials. It’s as if, once elected, the mayor of Muscatine forgoes even First Amendment rights.
All of those alleged wrongdoings are, in fact, precisely what mayors do throughout the country. They meet with constituents. They take feedback to relevant departments. They play ugly little political games with opponents. Broderson has been impeached for simply acting as a mayor.
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Broderson is being held to a unique standard, one that isn’t applied to any other elected official in Muscatine. This is personal. And that’s a problem.
Frankly, this entire charade has been an utter embarrassment. Broderson stormed into office, occasionally overstepped her bounds and the entire Dumpster fire spun out of control. The council stripped her of appointment power. She took it to state officials, who determined that was illegal. The council wouldn’t back down. She asked local law enforcement to prosecute. Yes, this farce has cost Muscatine taxpayers. But to pin the entire expense on Broderson is an exercise in dishonesty.
There’s nothing impeachable here. There never was. All this time and money spent. All this embarrassment heaped on Muscatine. More cash will no doubt be blown on defending the City Council when Broderson sues, should council members vote to remove her. And all of it has done nothing but expose the sewer that is Muscatine local politics.
It’s a ruthless, farcical crusade to oust an elected official for not toeing the line. It’s an affront to the voters of Muscatine and the democratic process itself. It’s the weaponization of an incredibly serious mechanism of impeachment for purely personal and partisan ends.
Broderson might not be a quality mayor by most measures. But then again, she never had a chance.