Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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June 4, 2015

Sullivan’s Salvos     6/9/15

In this edition:

*Property Tax Mistake
*Chamber Pledge
*More On Bernie Sanders
*Cheese Factory
*Did You Know?

*Property Tax Mistake
         There was quite the hullabaloo recently over the mistake made by the County Assessor’s Office several years ago and the recent request for a refund.

         Let me begin by noting that by every imaginable measure, the Johnson County Assessor’s Office is the best in the State. That is the truth. Look at any objective set of measurements, and you’ll find them number one. It is also true that they made a mistake here – that is not at issue. They screwed up, and they admit it.

So is there an easy fix? The public seems to believe so. I think it is a bit more complicated.

I’ll be honest – I think the media missed three very important points in their coverage. First, they should have spoken to the Assessor and Treasurer. Secondly, they failed to report that the complainant had a remedy available to her, and chose not to exercise it. Thirdly, they failed to report the myriad legal questions that exist. Had the media reported any of those things, the public might have recognized that this was not such an easy decision.

I sincerely appreciate the 4-5 folks who asked me questions about this situation. Most folks just assume they understand all the details, then jump straight to criticizing. And in fact, most of the folks who demanded we take certain actions were just plain wrong.

Even after a long discussion with our County Attorney’s Office, I am still a bit uncertain how this situation should be handled. Again, say you owe me money. If you offer me a reasonable process for getting my money, and I refuse to follow it… what happens?

We received a letter requesting payment. Was the request for the correct amount? No, it was not! So all of you who demanded that we refund $5000? We can only LEGALLY refund $2800. Your demands were wrong.

Not to mention who pays – is it the Assessor’s Office, or the County? Does the school district owe, too? Turns out, every taxing entity repays – so most of the money will end up coming from the Solon schools. So all of you who demanded that County pay it all? Your demands were wrong.

The easy thing, from a public relations standpoint, is write a check and be done with it, whether it is legal or not. I get that. I was just not certain it was legal, or that doing so was the best course of action. The discussion is online and you can listen to it yourself. Just visit: and go to agendas and minutes. Look for the informal meeting on June 4. It is a very interesting discussion.

I will likely vote to refund taxes that were wrongly paid – now that all my questions have been answered to my satisfaction. This is pretty uncharted territory; I don’t think it is wrong to make certain we have our ducks in a row.

         Anyway, the take away is this: review your tax bill. Review all your bills. I was overcharged by my cell carrier a couple months ago. I caught it, called, and got things corrected. Had I waited 4-5 years, it might not have been so easy.

         I am certain that mistakes of this type are exceedingly rare, but you should always check. And if you find something, go through the proper channels and do so right away.

*Chamber Pledge
         The Board of Supervisors has maintained an ex-officio seat on the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors for many years. The seat goes to our Vice Chair; that means that in 2015, I am that person.

         Until now. Unfortunately, the Chamber Board and I have reached an impasse regarding a pledge that they have started requiring Board Members to sign.

         I don’t like the idea of pledges, period, but I am particularly opposed to elected officials signing such documents. I think doing so compromises the integrity of the elected official to an extent that I find untenable.

         Don’t get me wrong; I understand where the Chamber is coming from on this. Far too many people fail to fully accept all their responsibilities as Board members, regardless of the Board in question. The Chamber is simply trying to get people on record as understanding their roles, and show that they are serious.

         But I cannot agree to the terms they set out, and they were not willing to change them. My specific concerns were these provisions:

1.   Leave personal prejudices out of all Board discussions.
2.   Represent the organization in a positive and supportive manner at all times and in all places.
3.   Support in a positive manner all actions taken by the Board of Directors even when I am a minority on such actions.

Anyone who has read my writing over the years will know that I have had some significant issues with the Chamber. Given that, how could I possibly surrender my autonomy in such a way? Even if I was in agreement with the Chamber on every issue, this pledge goes into very dangerous territory.

I could not abide by these rules in any group, but particularly as they apply to the Chamber. We have existing fundamental differences on property taxes, sales taxes, income taxes, income inequality, Social Security, affordable housing, the Affordable Care Act, the minimum wage, mandatory sick days, environmental standards, labor standards, TIF, and much, much, more. I fail to see how I can pledge that I will support everything for which they stand.

I must admit, I fail to see how the three City Managers who serve as ex-officio members can sign this pledge. What happens when the interests of your cities diverge from the interests of the Chamber? You are creating a situation whereby you are unfaithful to your employer, ignore the pledge, or both.

         I am disappointed to surrender my seat on the Chamber Board. Though we disagree on many things, I felt I had some things to offer. My intent was always to serve that organization to the best of my ability. Now that is up to a different Supervisor.

*More On Bernie Sanders
         Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders recently visited Iowa City, and the response was excellent! I had the honor and privilege of introducing the Senator, who spoke for about 40 minutes and took questions for another 35.

         The crowd was tremendous! I know we put out 250 chairs, meaning there were close to 400 people packed into the Rec Center Social Hall. From what I am told, just as many or more filled both floors of the Rec Center without even being able to get near the room!

         Some of Iowa’s Political Donor Class claims that the warm reception for Sanders is Iowa’s way of sending a warning to Hillary Clinton. “Come here or you’ll be punished,” they claim.

         Frankly, that is a bunch of poppycock. The thousands of Iowans who turned out for Bernie Sanders were there for him! The message they were sending was they want change!

Why is there so much interest and excitement in this campaign? The answer is quite simple, really… people recognize that we need to make serious changes in this country! Money in politics, income inequality, climate change – these are big, big issues. And they will not be solved without big ideas.

         So be bold. Think big. Consider Bernie Sanders for President!

*Cheese Factory
Great news! The Twin County Dairy (the Cheese Factory) has been sold to Kalona Creamery.

The seller was Proliant out of Ankeny, which purchased the plant on Hwy 1 in rural Johnson County a year ago from 2nd generation owner Johnny Roetlin. Proliant bought the plant for the whey the facility generated in making cheese, but closed the plant last fall after running up against pre-existing EPA wastewater issues.

The buyer was a new company, Kalona Creamery, formed by Bill Evans, who is also the owner or CEO of Farmers All Natural Creamery (aka Kalona Supernatural), Kalona Organics, and Awesome Refrigerated Transit of Iowa. Kalona Creamery will utilize most of the existing facilities, as well as intending to reopen the retail storefront.

         Bill is a great guy, and I wish him all the best on this endeavor!

*DID YOU KNOW?  The 2014 census estimate for Johnson County is 142,287 – an increase of 8.7% from 2010.

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website-

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