Former city manager files complaint

Jacob Lane · Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Former City Manager Chris Ward filed a civil complaint, Nov. 22, against various members of the Muscatine County Sheriff’s Department and Muscatine County Attorney Alan Ostergren.

Ward has alleged “deprivation of his constitutional rights,” “humiliation, degradation, public ridicule, loss of personal reputation,” and more according to the official complaint.

Chris Ward, currently city manager of Vinton, Iowa, was city manager of West Liberty from January 2004 to October 2013.

However, his employment was terminated by the West Liberty city council due to “dissatisfaction with the city’s recycling program,” according to the civil complaint being filed by Ward, section 19.

Afterwards, Ward and the city were drawn into a legal battle regarding an incident in which West Liberty overcharged residents a total of $260,000 between May 15, 2013 and Jan. 15, 2014 according to a state audit.

As a result, members of the Muscatine County Sheriff’s Department and Muscatine County Attorney Alan Ostergren filed felonius misconduct charges against Ward.

Ultimately, charges were dropped.

Now Chris Ward and his attorney, Alfredo Parrish of the Parrish Kruidenier Law Firm in Des Moines, have filed a civil complaint against Muscatine County Attorney Alan Ostergren, Sergeant Quinn Riess of the Muscatine County Sheriff’s Office, 2015 retired Sheriff Dave White and current Sheriff C.J. Ryan and Muscatine County.

The civil complaint revolves around the charges filed by those mentioned above and the effects the charges had and continue to have on Chris Ward.

“Because of the charges filed, Ward endured mental and emotional distress, from which he continues to suffer,” states the complaint. “He also suffers from, and will continue to suffer from, damage to his reputation as a city administrator.”

“Ward has been forced to incur expenses in defending himself against the criminal charges to clear his name,” states the report.

The official civil complaint lists seven counts, or violations, against Ostergren, members of the sheriff’s department and Muscatine County.

The first count is a violation of the fourth and/or fourteenth amendment, or the “Right to be Free from Unreasonable Restraints on Personal Liberty,” against Ostergren and Riess.

In it the plaintiff, Chris Ward, asks for compensation for violations of his constitutional rights, pain, suffering, mental anguish and more.

Muscatine County Auditor Ostergren and Sergeant Quinn Riess are the main focus of most of the seven counts, or violations.

The complaint states: “Ostergren and Riess demonstrated a deliberate indifference to and/or reckless disregard of Ward’s civil and constitutional rights by their unlawful and malicious prosecution of Ward.”

In November 2014, a state audit of West Liberty’s electrical utility revealed the city overcharged residents in a twenty page report.

Specifically, it alleged that Mr. Ward had repealed a 2007 ordinance with a 1998 ordinance without council approval.

Following the auditor’s report the Muscatine County Sheriff’s office opened a criminal investigation into the West Liberty utility rates.

Starting in section 27 of the civil complaint it states Sergeant Quinn Riess interviewed Ward, and in February 2015 met with Muscatine County Attorney Alan Ostergren regarding the information he had acquired.

It was this investigation that led to a criminal complaint filed against Mr. Ward, charging him with felonious misconduct in office, a violation of Iowa Code 721.1(2), a class “D” Felony.

At the time Chris Ward went to work for the City of Vinton as its city manager. According to KCRG the Vinton City Council went into a closed session to discuss the case.

Alan Ostergren complained, alleging that the Vinton City Council had illegally held the closed session and he wanted the audio recordings from the session.

However, the Iowa Public Information Board dismissed all complaints by the Muscatine County Attorney, according to the report.

Later on in the briefing in which the charges against Wards were dismissed, the civil complaint states:

“Ostergren agreed that as charged, Ward could not be convicted and/or sentenced on both charges listed in the trail information.”

“Ostergren stated he only charged Ward with third-degree fraudulent practices so that Ward could “plead guilty and not have to plead to a felony. Ostergren agreed the third-degree fraudulent practices charge was duplicitous of the misconduct in office charge and should be dismissed.”

The civil complaint has been filed with the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa Eastern Division, which is subject to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Meanwhile, Chris Ward’s attorney is well known in the State of Iowa.

According to his biography online, Parrish has represented clients in over 200 jury trials, including more than 30 first-degree murder cases.

He has litigated several high-profile and ground-breaking cases, including arguing before the United States Supreme Court and handled Iowa’s first death-penalty case in 40 years.
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