DES MOINES — Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Susan Christensen said Wednesday that the coronavirus pandemic forced the court system to enact two shutdowns of jury trials and institute remote hearings, but she is determined to resume in-person trials in February.

Giving the annual Condition of the Judiciary speech to the Iowa Legislature, Christensen said judiciary officials worked to balance the need to keep people safe with a commitment to conduct court business.

“And I am proud to report today that the judicial branch did not succumb to COVID-19,” she said.


Des Moines Schools accused of questionable payments

DES MOINES — A report released Wednesday by Iowa’s state auditor says Des Moines Public Schools made more than $200,000 in improper payments to a district maintenance and projects specialist and a maintenance contractor over the last seven years.

The report said school funds were used to reimburse contractor Ja-Ra Enterprises for costs of various school repair and construction projects from 2013 to February 2020. But auditors determined that many of the purchases included items that were not necessary or reasonable for the projects and personal in nature — including purchases of clothes, snack foods, electronic items, ammunition and cigarettes that went to district project facilitator specialist William Joseph Hinrichs and Ja-Ra contractor Kevin Kurth.

The audit was requested by the school district over concerns about questionable financial transactions, State Auditor Rob Sand said in the report.

The report recommends that the school district improve its internal controls, including requiring that all invoices include detailed documents.

COUNCIL BLUFFS — Two men have been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and other counts in a Council Bluffs shooting that left one man critically injured, police there said.

The shooting happened around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday outside the Northgate Apartments in Council Bluffs, police said. Arriving officers found Jeffrey Enders, 32, on the ground with a gunshot wound to his head. Enders was hospitalized, but is expected to survive, officials said.

Police later arrested Gage Eggum, 22, of Omaha, Neb., and Cody Chapin, 28, of Council Bluffs, in connection with the shooting.

The Associated Press