MONTROSE, Iowa — The legality of closing Lee County’s two courthouses is being questioned.
Residents will vote on a bond referendum in November to fund a new courthouse to replace the courthouses in Fort Madison and Keokuk.
Lee County supervisor Gary Folluo has voted against placing the question on the ballot, and he warned during Tuesday’s board meeting that closing one or both of the courthouses was illegal according to the current Iowa Code.
A January 2015 letter between Iowa Attorney General’s office and state Sen. Rich Taylor stated that Lee County could eliminate one of its county seats in Fort Madison or Keokuk as long as it doesn’t seek to close the district court, clerk of court’s office or discontinue sheriff’s services to the courts in either city.
Taylor had requested a formal opinion from the attorney general’s office in 2014 about the legality of eliminating one of the two county seats, The Hawk Eye (http://bit.ly/2c0ZJLf ) reports.
“Right now, in my opinion, it would be against the law to close the courts in those two facilities,” Taylor said.
A spokesman says while the opinion Taylor asked his office to issue was different than the measure appearing on a bond referendum, many of the same rules apply.
County board chairman Ron Fedler said that based on County attorney Mike Short reading of the law, supervisors have the legal authority to place a referendum on the ballot and have voters decide whether to consolidate the courthouses.
“This is the very heart of democracy,” Fedler said. “Let the voters decide. Whatever they decide, I think that we should respect their decision. And I would hope that the courts and the state would also.”
Information from: The Hawk Eye, http://www.thehawkeye.com