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District court ruling being appealed; Legal defense bill for county tops $130,000

The ongoing legal battle over wind energy in Palo Alto County is taking another step. On Monday, August 20, seven Palo Alto County residents filed an appeal of a district court ruling on their lawsuit against the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors, Palo Alto Wind Energy, LLC and MidAmerican Energy Company.

The appeal, filed with the Iowa Supreme Court, was brought by the original plaintiffs in the action: Bertha Mathis, Stephen Mathis, Tillford Egland, Thomas Stillman, Lois Stillman, Michael Reding and Suzanne Reding.

The latest action by the plaintiffs comes after their original lawsuit naming the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors as defendants, and Palo Alto Wind Energy, LLC and MidAmerican Energy company as interveners, was dismissed on July 25 of this year by Iowa Third District Court Judge Nancy L. Whittenburg. In court documents filed July 25, Whittenburg found that the Board of Supervisors did have the legal authority and had followed the required procedures to adopt the Wind Energy Conversion System Ordinance for Palo Alto County, as well as following the ordinance when approving the permit for Palo Alto Wind Energy.

In the same ruling, Whittenburg ruled that the plaintiffs raised no issues of material fact and only challenged the legal sufficiency of the board’s actions.

Whittenburg ordered that the interveners’ motion for summary judgment, which was joined by the defendants, be sustained and the case was dismissed and the plaintiffs were ordered to pay court costs.

According to Palo Alto County Attorney Peter Hart, the plaintiffs have 30 days from date of filing their appeal to submit all supportive documents to the supreme court and the defendants have 15 days to submit their supporting documents to the court.

In updating the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors on the appeal during the board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 21, Hart noted, “This will take months.”

“Months, as in this winter?” Supervisor Craig Merrill questioned.

“We will be lucky if it’s that soon,” Hart answered.

According to Hart, since the original lawsuit on the matter was filed back on Nov. 21, 2017, Palo Alto County has paid $130,000 in legal fees over the eight months of litigation against the Supervisors.

Hart also advised the supervisors that attorney Sheila Tipton, with tBrown, Winick, Graves, Gross, Baskerville and Schoenebaum of Des Moines, has agreed to continue reresenting the board during the appeal of the case. Hart also noted that Tipton said the appeal would take at least one year.