Our Cases: Site A Landowners and Mahaska County v. South Central Regional Airport Agency, City of Pella, and City of Oskaloosa

Michael R. Reck | Kelsey J. Knowles | Christopher J. Jessen

June 24, 2022 | Litigation | Press Release

This is a dispute with its inception back in 2012 validity of an Iowa Code chapter 28E agreement between Mahaska County and the cities of Pella and Oskaloosa regarding the creation of a regional airport. Pella, Oskaloosa and the Mahaska County Board of Supervisors agreed to give the supervisors’ legislative authority to a board controlled by Pella and Oskaloosa.  It further was agreed the County could not withdraw absent Pella’s and Oskaloosa’s permission. 

Because Mahaska County residents did not support the effort, the cities and their lawyers sought to put control of the decision beyond the reach of the voters.  The cities then hired a bevy of firms to protect their achievement, arguing that a contract is a contract and, absent the ability to prevent voters from expressing their will, progress was impossible. 

The Belin McCormick team became involved after the County already lost twice with two different firms and were left to try to overcome the failure to make crucial arguments.  The dispute, although perhaps not garnering much attention in Des Moines, was extremely important and hotly contested in south-central Iowa.  The issue was extremely important as the governing bodies sought to put the ability to make governmental decisions beyond the influence of the voters.  Today, the Supreme Court agreed that putting legislative decisions beyond the will of the people was unconstitutional.

You can read the Iowa Supreme Court opinion here.

You can watch our Iowa Supreme Court argument below.