The Iowa Court of Appeals says the Governor Terry Branstad’s brother should be paid attorney fees after he successfully challenged a Department of Natural Resources ruling. Monroe “Monty” Branstad admitted that silage discharge from a basin his property near Forest City entered the Winnebago River and led to a fish kill.
The DNR conducted a fish kill count and estimated more than 31,000 fish were killed — even though only 2,233 fish were counted. The DNR determined Branstad owed nearly $62,000 in restitution. Branstad appealed and the district court found the method used to calculate the number of dead fish did not follow state rules. The court lowered the restitution to $5,297 based on the number of fish counted.
Branstad accepted the new restitution amount and submitted a claim for nearly $71,000 in attorney fees. The district court denied the payment of attorney fees, based on exceptions in the Iowa Code.
The Court of Appeals addressed the exceptions, saying there was not substantial evidence to support the original fish kill estimate. It also found Branstad had to appeal the restitution amount to have a chance to get a hearing on the issue. The court says Branstad significantly reduced the restitution owed, based on correcting an illegal and long-standing method used by the DNR across the state for determining a fish kill. The ruling says his action served the public good, and there are no special circumstances that would make an award of attorney fees and expenses to Branstad unjust.
The case was sent back to the district court to determine the proper amount of attorney fees due Branstad.
Here’s the full ruling: Monte Branstad ruling PDF