SERGEANT BLUFF -- The city of Sergeant Bluff's former building inspector has sued the city, mayor and city administrator, claiming they fired him for reporting building code violations on properties, including the mayor's son's home, they had told him to ignore.
David Christensen alleges in his lawsuit that Mayor Jon Winkel and city administrator Aaron Lincoln told him to leave alone a duplex rehabilitation project he says was proceeding without building permits.
He also says that Winkel and Lincoln told him and other code enforcement officers to "stop concerning themselves" with alleged code violations at a home being built for Winkel's son, who was not identified in the suit.
Christensen said the city, Lincoln and Winkel conspired to fire him for reporting code violations that endangered public safety. He is seeking a jury trial and an award of damages for back pay, loss of salary and benefits and additional punitive damages.
Winkel said the city does not comment on pending litigation, but did say, "Our story will be quite a bit different from what you've heard from the other side."
Christensen received a notice of termination on April 2 from Lincoln, according to the lawsuit, filed last week in Woodbury County District Court.
The lawsuit said Christensen received the notice a week after reporting electrical violations at the Oak Hills duplexes rehabilitation site and weeks after reporting a code violation at the construction site at the home of Winkel's son.
Christensen said a 2016 city agreement with Oak Hills Duplexes, which owns rental units in Sergeant Bluff, did not require the company to obtain permits. After reviewing the agreement, Christensen told Lincoln the agreement violated Iowa law because it did not require permits.
Winkel signed the agreement on behalf of the city, and he or Lincoln told Christensen to "leave Oak Hills alone," the lawsuit said.
Christensen said the electrical work performed at the site required 88 state permits, but none were obtained, resulting in "numerous infractions visible from the street endangering the residents and the general public."
Christensen reported the violations to Lincoln after Oak Hills had contacted Christensen to install electrical meters. He was given his notice of termination a week later, the lawsuit said.
A month earlier, Christensen said in the suit, he had inspected the building site of Winkel's son's home and found it did not have silt fences and other erosion control barriers as required by city and state codes. After notifying the contractor of the infraction, Christensen said Lincoln and Winkel told him and others not to concern themselves about it.
Christensen also said Lincoln demoted and stripped him of some of his duties in April 2017 after he had reported an Oak Hills resident's concerns about water standing in the yard.