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West Liberty direct assistance program in limbo following mayor’s resignation

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It’s been a long year for West Liberty City Council. The volunteer fire department threatened to terminate services on city management issues. The Iowa Capitol Dispatch reports that the city hired a former Marion police officer who was fired for dishonesty. Talks about a direct aid program funded by the US bailout – while the council initially supported it – have stalled.

Taking a nod from Johnson County’s Direct Assistance Program, West Liberty aims to distribute $147,000 of the $522,000 US bailout dollars among residents. As in Johnson County, the program was advocated by The Iowa Catholic Worker House in hopes of sending checks directly to residents — some of whom are undocumented and ineligible for stimulus assistance in the age of COVID.

But a series of resignations hindered its momentum. It all started with Diane Beanek and Jose Zacharias. And on Tuesday this week, Mayor Catherine McCullough sent an email to the council and staff that she was also resigning. She said it was for personal reasons.

“Right now, the city needs someone with some experience to do that,” McCullough said.

In an effort to leave someone with leadership experience, McCullough surprised some by changing the order of her succession. Councilman Dana Dominguez was interim mayor, second in line. But McCullough reassigned the roles and put Kara McFerrin as a loyalist. This is after McFarren signed a letter dated June 16 calling for McCullough’s resignation. As of Wednesday, she was serving as mayor.

On Friday, West Liberty announced that it did not have the ability to run the program. Acting Mayor Kara McFarrin has been a critic of the Direct Assistance program in the past and told IPR News that she does not support outsourcing program management to a third party.

“I want to help people and we’re looking at other ways to be able to help our community without having to put the money we’ve already got at risk,” McFarrin said. Costs, what is the benefit then? “

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The city council and staff discussed the possibility of a third party taking on the administrative burden but nothing came of it. As of Friday, the city had not solicited proposals for a third party to run any part of the program, so the actual cost remains unknown.

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