IMU building

Indianola Mayor Pam Pepper said Monday that problems with the Indianola Municipal Utilities board of trustees will cause costs to rise and keep Indianola from sustaining the “growth it has generated over the last few years."

The solution, she said, is to remove Adam Voigts and Mike Rozga, the current and immediate past chairs of the IMU board, from their positions.

State code chapter 372.15 lays out the process to remove a member from a city board or commission, stating that “every such removal shall be by written order. The order shall give the reasons, be filed in the office of the city clerk, and a copy shall be sent by certified mail to the person removed.”

Rozga and Voigts both said previously that they had received letters on Nov. 5 beginning the removal process. Neither the two board members nor the city have shared the contents of the letters. City clerk Andrew Lent said the city is examining whether the letters are a public record.

Pepper said Monday that she had intended to “keep this issue and my concerns private. But given the public attacks on my character and intentions, I would like to share the basis for my decision, which has been in the works for the 12 months I have been mayor.

“These points are based on my attendance at IMU board meetings, conversations, interactions, and feedback directly to me from IMU customers,” she said. Pepper said her concerns include:

  • “Nine significant findings” in the 2020 audit of IMU financials and the “glossing over of these when questioned.”
  • What Pepper called “an inappropriate use of closed session in an IMU board meeting.”
  • Lack of a strategic plan over the last five years that Pepper said is hurting the city’s ability to repair and update systems.

“As many of our citizens experience, we’ve had numerous water main breaks in 2020,” she said. “Our water lines are old and failing, as apparent by the major fix required on square renovations.”

The city is in the midst of a multi-million dollar project to replace streets, water lines and sidewalks around the Indianola Square. IMU is paying about $2.6 million to bury water, electric and fiber lines around the Square as part of the project.

Pepper said the utility also has transferred the right to serve some areas to other providers, hurting revenue and that Rozga and Voigts had failed to communicate with city officials, the city council and citizens.

Pepper also cited a “continual push for the separation of the city and the city owned utility, which adds costs and reduces customer service and collaboration” as well as a “desire to change staffing and processes which affects both IMU and the city and not discussing with city council before decisions are reached.”

Pepper said that Voigts was disengaged, and “claimed in May, to me and to John Parker that he had no knowledge of the streetscape project until January 2021. This is incomprehensible for a leader of a multimillion-dollar public entity.

“The success of IMU is incumbent upon an effective and engaged board of directors,” she continued. “They serve by appointment of the mayor and these two individuals are not upholding their responsibilities. Simply put, I want more for our city.”

Voigts is chief financial officer at Drake University. His current term on the IMU board began in January of 2018 and expires in January of 2023. He also served a portion of an earlier term.

Rozga is retired from Indianola’s Cemen Tech and was appointed to the board in June of 2015, according to his LinkedIn profile. His current term expires in January of 2024. 

Members of the IMU board are paid $1,000 per year.

Voigts said at an IMU meeting Nov. 8 that the removals would be effective Dec. 4 unless he or Rozga requests a hearing on the removal.

State law says people being removed from a board or commission “shall be granted a public hearing before the council on all issues connected with the removal. The hearing shall be held within thirty days of the date the request is filed, unless the person removed requests a later date.”

The IMU board of directors voted unanimously Nov. 10 to hire Richard Malm with Dickinson, Mackaman, Taylor and Hagen law firm in Des Moines to represent it on the potential removals.

Malm told the board that he and his firm had represented the Des Moines Waterworks for almost 40 years.

“We’ve encountered the problem of removal of trustees from time to time, and advise the utilities and trustees on those matters, and at least on one occasion, we have engaged in a litigation on those matters,” said Malm. “It is our view that the board and the utility and the removed members will be well advised to retain counsel to advise and consult and perhaps take action if the board should determine in the future to do that.”

Rozga and Voigts both abstained on the vote.

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