Long-simmering dispute over Terrace Hill artifacts is headed for court

By: - May 2, 2022 5:04 pm

An Iowa charity is taking a panel of the governor’s appointees to court for allegedly seizing control of artifacts in the governor’s mansion. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

A non-partisan Iowa charity is taking a panel of the governor’s appointees to court for allegedly seizing control over artifacts in the governor’s mansion.

Terrace Hill, located at 2300 Grand Ave. in Des Moines, is the official residence of the governor of the state, and is a National Historic Landmark built in 1869.

The Terrace Hill Society Foundation says that for nearly 50 years, the foundation and its predecessors received hundreds of items of donated property, including historical artifacts as well as monetary donations used for the restoration, preservation and improvement of Terrace Hill.

The foundation says it worked closely and cooperatively with the Terrace Hill Commission, a state entity that manages the governor’s residence, in part by placing items from its collection of artifacts on display at Terrace Hill.

The foundation alleges that in recent years, a disagreement has developed between the commission and the foundation regarding ownership and control over the collection, “resulting in the commission, in effect, seizing control of the collection” and denying the foundation access to it.

As a result, the foundation says, it must now seek a declaratory judgment from the court that states the foundation, and not the commission, is the sole owner of all of the items in the collection, as well as all the monetary donations.

In a press release, the foundation said Monday it was reluctant to take legal action against the commission and did so only as a last resort. “Numerous attempts over several years to amicably and informally resolve these pending issues with the commission have been met with indifference and inaction,” the foundation stated.

The commission has repeatedly rebuffed any efforts by the foundation to inspect, maintain and repair items in the collection, the foundation added.

The Terrace Hill Commission is a nine-person board, created by statute and appointed by the governor, that provides for the preservation, maintenance, renovation, landscaping and administration of Terrace Hill. The commission has yet to file a response to the court petition, and commission members could not be reached for comment Monday.

According to the commission’s website, its current members include Gov. Kim Reynolds’ husband, Kevin Reynolds; Kristin Hurd; William Dikis; Brad Duffy; Jerry Mathiasen; Rob Reinard; Heather Soener; Julie Stewart; and Kasey Vogel.

A separate, private entity called the Terrace Hill Partnership works with the commission and raises money to preserve and enhance the property. The nonprofit partnership includes Hurd as its chairperson and lists Kevin Reynolds as an ex-officio member.

The partnership claims on the official Terrace Hill website that it is “the only non-profit organization that supports Terrace Hill.”

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.

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