by Melanie Thwing
Small v. City of Milton
(Iowa Court of Appeals, February 23, 2011)
In 2004, Jimmie Small paid five hundred dollars for a parcel of land in Milton, Iowa. He then placed an RV on the property and began living out of it. In 2005 Small requested that Rathbun Regional Water Association, Inc (RRWA) connect his RV to their water distribution system. RRWA agreed to do so but Small would still be responsible for the $1,065.37 cost. He did not connect to RRWA.
In August of 2005 Small requested that the City connect his parcel to the water and sewer systems. This request was denied because it was not practical to connect his property to the systems due to distance and private properties that would be crossed in the process.
After filing unsuccessful complaints with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and the Iowa Utilities Board, Small filed a petition with the district court in July of 2007. He argued that both the City and RRWA had entered into a public utility contracts as a condition of receiving federal funding. Small claimed that these contracts contained certain nondiscrimination covenants that were breached when both denied access to water and sewer based on his disability. He sought an order to provide the connections.
In March 2008 Small then filed for sanctions against the City for a failure to comply with discovery requests. Although he had received the requested documentation he claimed it was untimely and the certificates displayed the wrong dates. A public hearing for the matter was set for April and the morning of the hearing Small filed for a motion of continuance. This motion was denied, and after Small failed to appear at the afternoon hearing the motion for sanctions was dismissed.
Ultimately the City and RRWA moved for summary judgment in district court, which was granted when the court found no evidence that the City or RRWA discriminated against Small. Small then appealed this decision, but moved to postpone the filing of the proof brief with the Supreme Court claiming that the judicial record from the district court was incorrect. The Supreme Court allowed him to file a motion with the district court to modify the record. Ultimately the district court found that Small was rearguing his original claim and he should proceed with the appeal.
Small argued to the Court of Appeals that the district court was incorrect when they failed to find any factual reasons on the motion to amend the record, on granting summary judgment, and when denying this motion for sanctions. Under Iowa Court Rule 21.29(1)(d) the Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s decision.