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Friend, not foe, succeeds Des Moines mayor

By JODY ALLARD

Staff writer

Des Moines City Councilwoman Maggie Steenrod’s election to mayor during last week’s council meeting has some city residents shaking their heads and others seeking legal assistance.

Former mayor Don Wasson stepped down from the position early last week, citing the “distraction” of charges leveled against him by the state’s Public Disclosure Commission.

Wasson is charged by the PDC with concealing $49,000 in campaign contributions and expenditures aimed at reversing the city’s opposition to a third runway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Investigators for the PDC allege that Wasson used the money to help elect Steenrod, Richard Benjamin and Gary Petersen to the council, but without their knowledge.

The same three council members supported Wasson’s selection as mayor and joined forces to promote the embattled third-runway project.

The council members implicated in the PDC’s report were Steenrod’s only supporters in her bid for mayor. The remaining three council members supported longtime member Scott Thomasson.

“This is more than I signed up for,” said Councilwoman Susan White. “I just hope it’s going to get better.”

Wasson, Benjamin, Peterson and Steenrod also joined forces to name Benjamin mayor pro tem last week, despite a lack of support from the rest of the council.

“The council is still clearly divided 4-3. Nothing has changed,” said Des Moines resident Stan Scarvie. “It appears that Wasson still controls the council.”

Citizens for Des Moines, a group that filed a campaign disclosure complaints against Wasson, asked the state attorney general in a letter last week to invalidate the results of the last council election.

The PDC is expected to make a ruling in the case against Wasson next month.

Des Moines’ mayor is a largely ceremonial post to which the council appoints one of its members, as well as the mayor pro tem, who fills in when the mayor is absent from meetings.

Staff writer Jody Allard: 925-5565 and jallard@fedwaymirror.com

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