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Klein calls for Mayor Hart to divest after ice cream controversy

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Margaret Klein

WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) -- Following Monday night's City Council meeting concerning ice cream/food truck permits, Councilwoman Margaret Klein, who is running for mayor, has called on Mayor Quentin Hart to divest his interests in Two Scoops Ice Cream. "I call for Mayor Hart to immediately divest his holdings in the business known as Two Scoops Ice Cream Shop, in order to restore confidence in his administration," Klein said.

"Since taking ownership of the ice cream parlor, the mayor has advanced new licensing fees for food vendors, including ice cream vendors, which have the appearance of punishing his competitors," Klein said.

At Monday night's council meeting, Klein called the controversy, "Ice Cream-Gate." Klein is referring to an issue over vendor fees brought forward by an ice cream truck owner. Waterloo City Clerk Kelly Felchle clarified the issue when speaking with KWWL. Felchle says the ice cream truck owner had previously been charged a Peddler Permit, which is $20 a month.  

This year, according to the vendor, he was informed he had to pay the Transient Merchant License, which is $45 a day, a fee Felchle agreed is "outrageous." Felchle also said what happened was a mix-up.

At Monday's City Council meeting, members discussed a proposed Food Truck Ordinance that would start next January, updating what they called outdated policies. The new ordinance would apply to all food trucks, including ice cream trucks, and require them to be inspected and licensed. Permits would cost $350 yearly.

Council decided Monday to make further changes to the ordinance. KWWL was told that no mobile vendors will have to pay the fee(s) this year. The ice cream truck owner confirmed that with KWWL and said he also would not have to pay this year's fee.

Klein has been a harsh critic of the mayor in the past. As part of her written release, which can be read in full here, Klein claimed "It was not too long ago, while others were experiencing Covid layoffs, that my colleagues granted the mayor a hefty raise to do his job. Apparently, the raise wasn’t enough, so he went into the ice cream business, and now it appears as if his competitors' fees are being raised." She went on to say, "I believe it is fundamentally wrong for a full-time mayor to be seeking business opportunities while in office."

Under a grandfathered ordinance, city council received its own pay increase in July of 2020. Iowa and Waterloo laws do not prohibit a mayor from owning and operating a business. Mayor Hart tells KWWL that he consulted with County Attorney Brian Williams, Waterloo's city attorney, and the ethics board about his intended ownership in the ice cream shop.

Williams confirmed Wednesday that Hart approached him before entering into the business partnership and described him as "vigilant, cautious and extra careful" to make sure he avoided any conflicts of interest. Williams looked into it and said his office determined there was no conflict of interest for the mayor.

Late Wednesday, Mayor Hart released a statement in response to Klein's criticism and his ownership stake in Two Scoops Ice Cream.

"Prior to taking ownership of the business, I consulted with private and legal council to make sure there was no conflict of interest or city legal challenges. Like many of my predecessors, I am proud to be a small business owner in this community. It has given me a better understanding of the challenges they face and how critical small businesses are to the health of our local economy."

Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart

You can read Klein's full press release below:

I call for Mayor Hart to immediately divest his holdings in the business known as Two Scoops Ice Cream Shop, in order to restore confidence in his administration.

Since taking ownership of the ice cream parlor, the mayor has advanced new licensing fees for food vendors, including ice cream vendors, which have the appearance of punishing his competitors.

It has also come to light that the mayor purchased and/or may still rent his business from a developer who has received millions in city incentives. Waterloo citizens deserve transparency here at once.

It was not too long ago, while others were experiencing Covid layoffs, that my colleagues granted the mayor a hefty raise to do his job.  Apparently the raise wasn’t enough, so he went into the ice cream business, and now it appears as if his competitors' fees are being raised.

I believe it is fundamentally wrong for a full time mayor to be seeking business opportunities while in office. 

Margaret Klein 

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