Thursday Afternoon News, Feb. 14
Fertilizer Company Defrauded U-S Government of Millions of Dollars
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - State and local officials in Iowa promised an Egyptian company $200 million in tax breaks to build a fertilizer plant without knowledge of a lawsuit alleging one of the company's subsidiaries defrauded U.S. taxpayers out of millions of dollars.
The Iowa Economic Development Authority and Lee County approved the incentives for a subsidiary of Cairo-based Orascom Construction Industries, which plans to invest $1.4 billion to build the plant
in southeast Iowa.
Authority Director Debi Durham says during vetting, the agency did not uncover the lawsuit filed by the federal government against Contrack International. The lawsuit alleges Contrack was part of a
venture that improperly won $332 million in U.S.-financed construction contracts in Egypt.
Durham says she's "not sure how anyone would have found that" and doesn't consider the case significant.
State Senate Passes 4% Education Funding Bill
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The state Senate has approved legislation that would increase state funding for K-12 schools by 4 percent for the 2014-2015 school year.
The Legislature is required to set school funding more than a year in advance, prompting Thursday's Senate vote. Because lawmakers didn't approve a budget last year, the Senate last month
passed a bill increasing funding for the coming school year.
In the House, Republicans in a committee approved a scaled-backed version of Gov. Terry Branstad's education reform proposals Wednesday night. The revised plan reduces teacher raises
backed by Branstad and lets schools opt-out of minimum salary hikes or leadership bonuses.
The dueling efforts show the distance between the Democratic-majority Senate, the Republican-controlled House. A Branstad spokesman says the governor was encouraged that House
lawmakers were debating education reform.
Police Arrest Mother After Seeing Child Play With Crack Cocaine
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Police say a 25-year-old Iowa City woman was arrested after officers saw one of the woman's children playing with a rock of crack cocaine.
Officers were dispatched to Tiffany Johnson's apartment after a child called 911 around 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Johnson was there but told officers that she'd left her three kids home alone when she went to a store. Police say that while officers were talking to Johnson, they saw one of her kids playing with the rock of crack. Police say Johnson acknowledged to officers that she sells crack and that she had some stored in her bedroom.
Johnson remained in Johnson County Jail on Thursday. Online court records don't list the name of her attorney.
Lingerie Store Called Adult Entertainment Venue
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) - The owner of a Cedar Rapids store that sells lingerie and sex toys is fighting the city over whether it's an adult entertainment establishment.
Patricia Edmonds has filed a lawsuit in Linn County District Court to reverse the city's decision to label Simply Sensual as an adult entertainment establishment under municipal code. It makes
the store too close to a church, a day care and a residential area.
The Gazette reports Edmonds' attorney says the primary items sold at the store are lingerie, and adult materials take up less than 10 percent of the floor space and are behind a wall.
Edmonds also is asking the court to allow her to operate the store until a ruling is made in the case.
Trial Delayed in Gay Marriage Forgery Case
GRUNDY CENTER, Iowa (AP) - Trial has been delayed for an Iowa court official charged with lying to help a same-sex couple from Florida obtain a marriage license.
A judge cited "ongoing plea negotiations" in delaying Brigitte Van Nice's trial from Wednesday until April 17. Prosecutor Jennifer Miller said Thursday that no plea deal has been finalized. Van Nice is charged with tampering with records, forgery and perjury.
Van Nice is accused of filing false documents claiming she had officiated the Florida couple's Valentine's Day wedding last year in Iowa. Investigators say the ceremony didn't take place and Van Nice faked the signatures of two people she claimed were witnesses.
The men thought they could get married without coming to Iowa. They paid Van Nice $150.
Van Nice was a deputy clerk in Grundy County.
Davenport To Install Ferris Wheel At Ballpark
DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) - The Davenport City Council has approved an agreement with the owner of the Quad-Cities River Bandits for construction of a Ferris wheel outside Modern Woodmen Park on the
The Quad-City Times reports that the 90-foot-tall ride will sit beyond the left-field fence. The lease deal was approved Wednesday.
Main Street Baseball, which owns the team, will finance the ride's purchase. In his presentation to the council, Main Street managing partner David Heller said plans include a carousel along the right-field line and a zip line that will run from right to left field.
The concrete pad for the Ferris wheel could be laid in April and the wheel delivered and in operation by the middle of June.