STORY BY: WHOTV
DES MOINES, Iowa — Des Moines residents have waited years for a refund on an illegal franchise fee once placed on their MidAmerican bill. The city is paying back about $40 million in fees that it illegally charged years ago.
That check could soon be in the mail.
Lawyers say a lengthy legal process is to blame for how long it’s taken to deliver the #32 million worth of refunds.
“We couldn’t have predicted that 12 years later we would still be talking about these issues,” said Attorney Brad Schroeder.
The case was originally in 2004 by Lisa Kragnes. In 2009 the courts ruled in favor of the plaintiff. The ruling was then appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court in 2012 which upheld the ruling. It was then time to sort out legal fees. In 2013 Schroeder requested 15 million in attorney’s fees which was rejected in place of seven million. In January 2015 the Iowa court of appeals issued one final ruling confirming the legal fees and the total amount to be refunded.
With those hurdles behind them, lawyers expect residents to get their checks sometime in mid-November.
“The good news is we’re finally to the stage where we’re hopefully going to be able to put these wrongfully taken monies back in people’s pockets,” said Schroeder.
Schroeder says there is something the company issuing the refunds, Rust Consulting, is working through.
Mistakes made by applicants on their refund forms.
“Folks have returned claim funds but the information they provide doesn’t match up with anything that was provided by Mid-American, so there’s difficulty linking a claimant with an actual claim, or on the actual claim form people indicate they simultaneously want a refund and have declined a refund,” said Schroeder.
The average homeowner could expect to see several hundred dollars come to them in the mail, but not everybody is happy to get that check.
“They’re going to have to recover the cost of all of this stuff so I figure in the long run I’m going to end up paying more than what I saw out of this,” said Carl Gentry.
Gentry referred to the fact that the city legally raised the franchise fee 2.5 percent to cover the cost of the bond used to pay for the 40 million dollars in refunds and legal fees.