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Anderson v. State Ex rel. Iowa Department of Transportation

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 6, 2019

CURT ANDERSON and CAROL ANDERSON, Petitioners/Cross-Appellants,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, ex rel. IOWA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, Respondent-Appellee. JEFFREY ENGLAND, LARRY ENGLAND, and CHARLOTTE ENGLAND, Petitioners-Appellants,

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Wapello County, Joel D. Yates, Judge.

         Appellants and cross-appellants challenge the department of transportation's cancellation of an auction for the sale of a parcel of land.

          Nathan A. Olson and Christine E. Branstad of Branstad Law, PLLC, Des Moines, and Steven P. Wandro of Wandro & Associates, P.C., for appellants.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and David S. Gorham, Noel C. Hindt (until withdrawal), and Richard E. Mull (until withdrawal), Assistant Attorneys General, for appellee.

          Paul Zingg of Denefe, Gardner & Zingg, P.C., Ottumwa, for cross-appellants.

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

          McDONALD, Judge.

         In this administrative appeal, appellants Kurt and Carol Anderson and cross-appellants Jeffrey, Larry, and Charlotte England (collectively "the Englands") challenge the Iowa Department of Transportation's (DOT's) cancellation of an auction for a parcel of land. The DOT affirmed the cancellation in a declaratory order. The district court affirmed the declaratory order. We also affirm.

         The DOT owns the parcel of land at issue in this appeal. In 2016, the DOT decided to dispose of the parcel by auction. The DOT opened the auction to the owners of the three abutting pieces of property: Jon and Cheryl Simparcel, Kurt and Carol Anderson, and Jeffrey England. The DOT sent the owners of each abutting parcel a letter and a bidding form. The letter stated that "Iowa DOT policy allows a purchase preference for all abutting owner(s) of land to be sold." The letter stated it would give preference to bids that equaled or exceeded the fair market value of the parcel, which the DOT determined was $45, 000. The bid form stated that to submit a valid bid the bidder must include a check with the returned form. The form also pre-printed $45, 000 as the default bid amount: "I herewith submit an unconditional offer of $45, 000 to the [DOT] for the purchase of the following land[.]" Finally, the form stated "The [DOT] reserves the right to waive any technicalities and to reject any or all bids or offers."

         The Andersons returned a completed form. The bid form offered $45, 000 and was accompanied by a check for the same amount. Jeffrey England also submitted a form. Jeffrey's bid form left the pre-printed bid amount of $45, 000. However, Jeffrey's bid was accompanied by a check signed by his parents, Larry and Charlotte, in the amount of $51, 016. After the Andersons learned another party was interested in the property, they increased their bid to $50, 000. The bidding period then closed.

         Subsequently, the DOT called Jeffrey. The exact substance of that phone call is not in the record. Jeffrey contends he was "informed he was the high bidder for the parcel." According to the agency, Jeffrey "was informed that the check from Larry and Charlotte England for $51, 016 was the highest offer, and that there were discrepancies between the Offer to Buy Jeffrey England signed and the check received from Larry and Charlotte England." Jeffrey was also allegedly informed "the DOT would need to send a new Offer to Buy form to Larry and Charlotte England, to be signed so that the offer would match the check."

         On the same day, the DOT also called Charlotte. It is unclear exactly what transpired during this phone call. According to the DOT, Charlotte was "informed of the discrepancies between the Offer to Buy that Jeffrey England signed and the check received from Larry and Charlotte England." She was also told "that [the DOT] would be mailing her paperwork, including a new Offer to Buy, to be signed by Larry and Charlotte England, so that the offer would match the check."

         Finally, the DOT sent the Andersons a letter that explained that their bid was unsuccessful. The DOT also returned the Andersons' uncashed check.

         Shortly after, the DOT attempted to mail Charlotte and Larry the original, voided bid form that Jeffrey had submitted. The DOT also sent a blank bid form and a note that said, "Cross off the amount of $45, 000.00 and write in $51, 016.00 above it and initial. Fill in name as Larry England and Charlotte England. Please sign and date as 3-18-16." However, because of a ...


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