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Ferentz civil trial ends

Long-standing dispute with neighbors to be decided by judge

(File photo) Iowa Hawkeyes head football Coach Kirk Ferentz (from left) and Mary Ferentz leave the Linn County Courthouse after a hearing in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Jun. 1, 2018. Kirk and Mary Ferentz were scheduled to go to trial Feb. 6 in Johnson County after they were sued by Saddle Club Road Homeowners’ Association over road repairs and other issues in their rural Johnson County neighborhood. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
(File photo) Iowa Hawkeyes head football Coach Kirk Ferentz (from left) and Mary Ferentz leave the Linn County Courthouse after a hearing in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Jun. 1, 2018. Kirk and Mary Ferentz were scheduled to go to trial Feb. 6 in Johnson County after they were sued by Saddle Club Road Homeowners’ Association over road repairs and other issues in their rural Johnson County neighborhood. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — A civil trial pitting University of Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz and his wife against their neighbors ended Wednesday afternoon after two full days.

The two-day trial wrapped up around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday after testimony from witnesses including Mary Ferentz and John Buatti, who have been on opposite sides of the dispute over land use in their secluded enclave north of Iowa City. Kirk Ferentz was not called to the stand, but did attend both days of trial.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Chad Kepros has given attorneys until March 15 to file post-trial documents, said Siobhan Briley, who is representing the neighbors. After that time, Kepros has 60 days to rule.

The Saddle Club Road Homeowners’ Association sued Kirk and Mary Ferentz on March 2, 2016, alleging the couple broke a 2001 contract and are responsible for their share of road repairs, or $9,600. The neighbors also assert the couple’s landscaping violated a neighborhood easement.

Their house, with a net assessed value of $1.23 million, was built in 1999, one year after Kirk Ferentz was hired as head UI football coach. He is the state’s highest-paid public employee, earning more than $5 million in total compensation for fiscal 2018, state records show.

Two of the other six neighbors are UI employees. Buatti is a radiation oncologist whose salary this year is $745,500 and Elayne Sexsmith is an administrator at the Center for Disabilities and Development and is paid $139,400 a year.

Shortly after the Ferentzes built their house on the single-lane gravel road, another couple, the Buattis, proposed subdividing their own property for development including surfacing the road. The Ferentzes opposed the plan for privacy concerns, Buatti testified in a deposition. The couples signed an agreement in 2001 saying the Buattis would not sell further parcels and the neighbors, including the Ferentzes, agreed to form a homeowners association in part to plan for road maintenance.

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The Homeowners’ Association was formed in 2015 and members later voted to pay $36,000 to repair Saddle Club Road. The Ferentzes dispute they ever agreed to be part of the association.

Attorneys for the Ferentzes and neighbors told a judge last year they had reached a settlement, but that fell apart. The parties were ordered in March to appear in court. At a Feb. 1 pretrial conference, Jeff Stone, an attorney for the Ferentzes, said they were ready for trial: “We are not resolved and we are not going to be resolved.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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