February 6, 2016

Couple sues over Hot Lotto mystery jackpot

Larry and Kathy Dawson.

Larry and Kathy Dawson.

A Webster City man, who claimed a $9 million Hot Lotto jackpot nearly five years ago, filed a lawsuit today claiming he deserved a much bigger prize.

In May of 2011, Larry Dawson won the first jackpot after a previous jackpot in the game was “rigged.” Attorney Jerry Crawford of Des Moines is representing Dawson.

“But for the rigging of the lottery by the lottery executive, our client would’ve won a cash value of $16 million, in total,” Crawford said. After taxes, Dawson collected $6 million in 2011.

Just a few months earlier, a $10 million cash value Hot Lotto jackpot was won. But, Eddie Tipton, a former executive with the Multi-State Lottery Association was recently convicted of fraud for “fixing” the game and trying to claim that prize.

Crawford believes that $10 million prize should go to Dawson. “The question that our lawsuit poses and that we think should be very easy to answer is if you can’t trust the lottery to pay you in full when you win, why should you ever play?” Crawford said.

After Tipton unsuccessfully attempted to redeem the ticket for the Hot Lotto prize and the redemption time expired, the $10 million was ruled to be an “unclaimed prize” and distributed back to the Iowa Lottery and other participating state lotteries.

Attorney Nick Mauro, who’s also representing Dawson, claims the Lottery broke its own rules. “The money that we’re talking about in this lawsuit was always intended and always earmarked to go to a jackpot winner,” Mauro said. “This money was never intended to go to the states’ general funds…or whatever the lottery does with its half of the profits. This was always intended to be jackpot money.”

Iowa Lottery officials issued a statement, saying “It is impossible to rewrite history. No one can know what would have occurred in this case had any event in it been changed. We believe that Mr. Dawson rightfully was paid the jackpot to which he was entitled.”

Crawford is surprised with the response. “We know our client won. We know their executive rigged the game. I’m a little surprised they want to be on that side instead of our side, to be honest,” Crawford said.

Crawford and Mauro spoke with reporters this afternoon in their law firm’s office in downtown Des Moines. Larry Dawson did not attend the news conference.

“He and his wife are not the kind of people who are looking for any limelight or attention. They could have been here, but they prefer not to be,” Crawford said. Crawford noted Larry and Kathy Dawson have donated a lot of their winnings to charity and they should not be viewed as “greedy” for filing the lawsuit.

“But, they also think that if somebody plays the lottery…you know, the odds aren’t exactly what we call ‘great’ to win the lottery and if you actually win, you should get your prize,” Crawford said.

The lawsuit was filed against the Iowa Lottery Authority and the Multi-State Lottery Association (MSLA). It’s the first in what could be several lawsuits filed by players claiming they were ripped off by games allegedly rigged by Eddie Tipton. The former security director of the MSLA is also accused of rigging jackpots in Colorado, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma.


American Lung Association calls for more funds to fight smoking

cigaretteAn annual report from the American Lung Association is giving Iowa failing grades in three categories in the effort to prevent and reduce tobacco use.

Micki Sandquist, Executive of the American Lung Association in Iowa, believes there are a number of things the state could do that would ultimately reduce death and disease tied to cigarettes and similar products.

“Number one is to increase our funding for the Division of Tobacco Use Prevention and Control — getting it back to when we had over $12 million to work with our programming in Iowa when we saw a reduction in the use of tobacco products,” Sandquist said.

In 2008, the Iowa Department of Health’s Division of Tobacco Use Prevention and Control had a budget of $12.29 million.In fiscal year 2015, the division’s budget was just over $5.5 million.

Sandquist is also calling for an increase of the tax placed on tobacco products. “We know that is another way and a best practice to reduce the use of tobacco products,” Sandquist said. Iowa’s current tax on cigarettes is $1.36 per pack. The American Lung Association in Iowa is lobbying for a one buck increase to $2.36 per pack.

The 14th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report does give Iowa an “A” grade in the category of “Smokefree Air,” but Sandquist says there’s room for improvement there too.

“We still have that loophole to close with making all public places smoke free,” Sandquist said.



Des Moines airport prepares for snow and flights out after Iowa Caucuses

Flight-infoThe airport in Iowa’s capital city will be much busier than normal Tuesday morning as national media and others who’ve flocked to the state for the caucuses make their way back home or head to New Hampshire.

Kevin Foley, executive director of the Des Moines Airport, says they started planning for the boom in business about six months ago.

“The airlines have agreed to bring in larger aircraft and TSA will have additional screening staff on duty to ensure that the screening lines are as short as we can make them,” Foley said. In addition, the car rental companies around the airport plan to have extra staff on hand to handle a large influx of vehicles.

The approaching winter storm, expected to arrive in the Des Moines area overnight, could complicate matters. Foley said the airport has plenty of equipment to clear any amount of snow. “The one thing that I’m positive of is that the airport will be open and the runway will be available for any aircraft to arrive or depart,” Foley said. “What concerns me is the things I don’t control…and that is the weather.”

Although the airport will be open, Foley said there’s no guarantee that the airlines will be operating at a full schedule. He notes most of the presidential candidates have charter flights and will be leaving either late tonight or very early tomorrow, before the storm hits.


County engineers say signs don’t always make rural intersections safe

Uncontrolled intersection in Crawford County.

Uncontrolled intersection in Crawford County.

A recent increase in severe crashes at uncontrolled intersections in rural Iowa has prompted some lawmakers and others to question if more stop or yield signs should be posted on the state’s lesser traveled roads.

Winneshiek County Engineer Lee Bjerke says installing more signs isn’t always the answer to increased safety.

“That’s not, in our view, the right thing to be doing. So, we’re trying to bring more education out to everyone,” Bjerke said. “I know these crashes happen and they’re very unfortunate, but running out and throwing up a bunch of controlled intersections is not going to fix the problem.”

Iowa’s county engineers warn that over regulating traffic can result in drivers ignoring critical signage where it’s essential. “If you flood the system with all of these signs, (drivers) start to ignore them. The ones that are very necessary, those are the ones we want to have up and the ones you need to see,” Bjerke said. “When you put a bunch more out there that are not necessary, it is detracting from those that really are necessary. That’s what we’re trying to make sure we maintain.”

Bjerke also points to a 2005 Iowa State University study of such intersections.

“They found putting up these stop signs, statistically, made no difference,” Bjerke said. Installing many “non-essential signs” can lead to a less safe system overall, according to Bjerke, providing a false sense of security with drivers not stopping or recognizing the potential for conflict at the intersection.


Blood drive to honor Iowa teen, avid donor, killed in crash

McKenzie Cummins

McKenzie Cummins

A young woman from western Iowa who was killed in an accident last year is serving as the inspiration for a blood drive today.

Katie Marshall, with the Red Cross, says the event in Moorhead, Iowa was organized by friends of 18-year-old McKenzie Cummins. “McKenzie was unfortunately killed in a car accident in August, just a couple of weeks before she was set to start college,” Marshall said. “We are holding a blood drive in her honor and we’re asking anybody who has never given blood before to maybe find a blood drive in your area and think of McKenzie.”

Cummins, a 2015 graduate of West Monona High School, was a cheerleader, student council president, and a talented artist. She had plans to attend Wayne State.

Cummins was also an avid blood donor. “She had donated blood 16 times. So, from the time that she turned 16, she was an avid donor — giving about every 56 days, which is how often you’re eligible,” Marshall said.

McKenzie’s dad, Robert Cummins, described his daughter as “everything a father would want in a child.” He added, “She was hardworking, caring, compassionate and always helping anyone in need.”

Today’s blood drive at the Moorhead Community Center runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Investigation underway into alleged sexual abuse at Midwest Academy

Midwest Academy

Midwest Academy

Law enforcement officers from a host of federal, state, and local agencies carried out search warrants Thursday at the Midwest Academy campus in southeast Iowa’s Lee County.

Iowa DCI Special Agent in Charge Richard Rahn provided a few details about the investigation at a news conference today in Montrose.

The investigation involves alleged sexual abuse by a staff member of a former student. Rahn called the investigation a “complex and fluid” situation.

“Currently, there are no charges that have been filed and there are no arrests,” Rahn said. Iowa Department of Human Services investigators said they have conducted 28 assessments at the Midwest Academy. Very little other information about the case was released. Midwest Academy is described as a “therapeutic boarding school that enrolls students from across the nation and world.”

Gabriel Poling, with the FBI, urged anyone with information about the Midwest Academy that may be beneficial to the investigation to call 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324).

“Perhaps you’ve thought about calling in the past and you haven’t, because you thought you wouldn’t be believed. Perhaps you thought about calling, but you thought your information wasn’t important enough. We want to hear from you. So, please do call if you have any information you think would help this investigation,” Poling said.


Fast food workers in Des Moines join national call for an increase in pay

Fast food workers in Des Moines want their pay upped to $15 an hour.

Fast food workers in Des Moines want their pay upped to $15 an hour.

Dozens of fast food workers in Des Moines walked out of their jobs today calling for union rights and pay of 15 bucks an hour.

The protest was timed with the Republican presidential debate in Iowa’s capital city tonight.

Thirty-year-old Wiley King says he’s paid $8 an hour at Wendy’s. “It’s very difficult working for $8 an hour. There are a lot of critical decisions you have to make as far as sacrifices, deciding what’s more important and what has to be done,” King said.

Originally from Milwaukee, King moved to Des Moines as a teenager with his mother and siblings. He’s worked at several fast food restaurants over the past five years. “They say $15 an hour is too high. I don’t believe that because that would just basically be what’s necessary to survive, to pay rent, transportation, education, and things like health insurance,” King said.


Workers protest at a McDonald’s near the state fairgrounds

Simone Davis, who works at a McDonalds, also believes the corporations running fast food franchises could easily afford to pay workers $15.

“These companies…are making billions and just give us $7.25 and we can’t even meet the basic needs of our living situations,” Davis said.

The 19-year-old Davis said she’s worked for three years at fast food restaurants, but has never made more than $7.25 an hour. And, at times, she’s held down three jobs at once.

“Only making $7.25, I can’t afford my own place. I can’t afford to go to college. I have to struggle from check to check and borrow money from people,” Davis said. “I shouldn’t have to do that when I’m working and doing three jobs at time. The workers marched around a McDonald’s near the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines over the noon hour.

The national group “Fight for 15” helped organize the rally — claiming just under half of the people working in Iowa are paid less than $15 an hour. The strike in Des Moines was the third in recent months to coincide with presidential debates.

The Fight for 15 group also organized protests in Milwaukee in November and Charlotte, North Carolina in January.