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State v. Ward

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 8, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
CHRIS ANTHONY WARD, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Muscatine County, Stuart P. Werling, Judge.

         Chris Ward appeals the district court's denial of his motion to dismiss. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

          Gina M. Messamer and Alfredo G. Parrishof Parrish Kruidenier L.L.P., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Aaron J. Rogers, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Heard by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Vaitheswaran, JJ.

          VAITHESWARAN, Judge.

         This appeal requires us to determine whether a charge of felonious misconduct in office may be premised on an ordinance that was not properly repealed.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Chris Ward was terminated from his long-term position as West Liberty city manager. The State subsequently charged him with felonious misconduct in office in connection with an instruction he allegedly gave to bill utility customers pursuant to a rate prescribed by a 1998 ordinance rather than a 2007 ordinance.[1]The 1998 ordinance set electricity rates "based upon a Cost of Purchased Energy Index of 2.4 cents per KW-HR." See West Liberty, Iowa, Ordinance No. 9-98 (Dec. 15, 1998).[2] The 2007 ordinance "repeal[ed] ordinance 1-87, 11-88, and 9-93"-but not ordinance 9-98-and set forth utility "rates . . . based upon a Cost of Purchased Energy Index of 3.1¢ per kWh." See West Liberty, Iowa, Ordinance 2007-01 (June 15, 2007). The 2007 cost of purchased energy index effectively lowered the rate charged to utility customers. By reverting to the 1998 index, West Liberty charged a higher rate.

         The State did not assert Ward pocketed the overage, which was ultimately refunded to customers. The State simply charged that Ward's reliance on the 1998 ordinance amounted to falsification of a public record. See Iowa Code § 721.1(2) (2015).

         Ward moved to dismiss the charge. He asserted "[a]ny action based on [the 1998 ordinance] [was] fundamentally legal" because that ordinance was still in effect. The State countered by asserting, "The fact that the price [for electrical service] was changed [in the 2007 ordinance] means that the 1998 ordinance was repealed."

         In ruling on the motion, the district court mentioned the State's concession "that as of the date when the criminal activity [was] alleged, the City of West Liberty had not enacted an ordinance which specifically repealed Ordinance 9-98." The court nonetheless denied the motion to dismiss the felonious misconduct charge, reasoning, "The only manner in which one can logically harmonize the two ordinances in this matter is to interpret Ordinance 2007-01 to be an enactment to amend and change the electrical rate charged by the City of West Liberty."

         Ward filed an application for interlocutory appeal and discretionary review, which the Iowa Supreme Court granted.

         II. ...


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