The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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October 23, 2013

HERALD OPINION: City must move forward

It’s time to look forward.

That’s what the last three weeks have told us. In exclusive coverage from the Clinton Herald, Assistant Editor Katie Dahlstrom spent approximately 90 hours in a Scott County courtroom, detailing the story of how the city settled for $4.5 million with the federal government in 2010, and what led to that decision.

The city felt its attorney, Michael Walker, was negligent in his pursuit of a settlement.

The jury thought differently.

Now the citizens are stuck paying the remainder of $4.5 million settlement made three years ago and more than $750,000 in expenses to prove Walker breached the standard of care.

That’s more than $5 million for the mess created when whistleblower Timothy Schultheis filed a complaint under the federal False Claims Act accusing the city of Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

To hash over the details of why the city settled and whether the city knowingly committed fraud is a discussion we don’t feel necessary at this point.

Instead, the city must learn from its mistakes and move forward with a better governing strategy.

Part of that strategy would be to ask more questions.

Why did the city hire a person who had never heard of the federal statute the city was accused of violating? The city’s attorney, Mike Hannafan, drove home the point that Walker didn’t have the experience necessary to defend the city in a case such as this.

Why weren’t city officials and City Council members questioning Walker’s credentials when they trusted him to serve the city in its best interest?

And when unqualified attorneys suggested taking a $4.5 million settlement, a crippling number for a town decimated with decreasing population and high taxes, why weren’t more red flags raised about that price tag?

Citizens have questioned that amount for years. We believe that amount was far too high for the alleged crime committed.

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With the Clinton County Justice Coordinating Commission and the Clinton County Board of Supervisors discussing proposals to construct a new jail, do you think the time has come for Clinton County to construct such a facility?

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