University Heights council member removed as zoning committee chairwoman

Vote comes after Silvia Quezada filed formal public records complaint against city

  • Photo

UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS — A City Council member so upset she couldn’t get public records from her own city that she filed a formal complaint. A mayor so fed up with her he led a charge to get her booted from leading the city’s zoning commission.

The drama came to a head Tuesday night at the University Heights City Council meeting, where members voted 3-1 to remove Silvia Quezada from her post on the zoning commission. She was the only one to vote against the move, but another member abstained — saying she was ”embarrassed” by it all.

Quezada, who was elected to begin serving in 2014 and was re-elected in 2015 to a term that expires on Dec. 31, 2017, says, through email, she began asking University Heights Mayor Wally Heitman for documents related to the city’s building commission in July. She continued making requests for other information, eventually sending an email asking for information about a property at the intersection of Melrose Avenue and Sunset Street and whether a satellite dish was allowed in the yard of the home there.

On Sept. 20, Heitman responded, writing, “I am doing enough work now that I will not take time to fulfill this request.”

Six days later, Quezada filed a public records complaint with the Iowa Public Information Board.

Heitman said he declined to provide information to Quezada because she was no longer a member of the city’s building committee.

“It was nothing. It was absolutely nothing for her to stick her nose into,” Heitman said. “It’s too bad that it has to come to this.”

Quezada disagrees.

“It just really comes down to a mayor who was reckless because he intentionally disregarded the rights of an individual who requested government records,” she said.

After filing her complaint, the city did turn over the requested information, but the complaint case remains open with the Public Information Board and University Heights Attorney Steven Ballard is being paid to deal with the matter he says already has cost the city about $2,500 and could cost another $500 to $1,000, depending on how the issue is resolved.

Ballard said Quezada could withdraw her complaint, but if she doesn’t, the city plans to seek dismissal or administrative closure, in which the issues would be closed without a formal hearing on the matter. The City Council on Tuesday also voted 5-0 directing Ballard to further represent the city in the matter with the Public Information Board.

In a memo to council, Ballard wrote that Quezada did not make her request for information with the proper person — the city clerk. “The request was legally insufficient, particularly for purposes of sanctioning the City or the Mayor or Chairperson of the Board of Adjustment for their response,” Ballard wrote.

Council Member Jerry Zimmermann on Tuesday said that while Quezada had a right to the information she was requesting and Heitman should not have responded the way he did, the whole matter could have been simply solved had Quesada informed Ballard.

“She was willing to risk the city’s money to make the point that (Heitman was) wrong.” Zimmermann said. “She attacked at the jugular.”

Zimmermann along with members Jim Lane and Mike Haverkamp supported Quezada’s removal as chairwoman of the zoning committee. Quezada voted against it while Dottie Maher abstained, citing her embarrassment.

This isn’t the first time Quezada, Heitman and the council have clashed. In May, Quezada was removed as chairwoman of the building commission and Board of Adjustment.

Heitman on Tuesday said these actions are the “consequences of her behavior.”

“I have to constantly be dealing with these sort of interventions,” he said. “This is getting to the point where I think about resigning because of all the pressure.”

Give us feedback

Have you found an error or omission in our reporting? Tell us here.
Do you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.