Rice field project won't go ahead

According to the Des Moines Register,

An investment group that included the late Ed Boesen has informed Des Moines school officials that it is pulling out of a deal to develop the former Rice Elementary School site.

Rice Development Partners told school officials that it intends to terminate an agreement to purchase the vacant school site at 3001 Beaver Ave. for $650,000.

The article quotes the attorney for the Des Moines school district as saying, “we have a valid and enforceable contract,” but I don’t see how they will be able to squeeze money out of this investment group. A long line of creditors are suing Ed Boesen’s estate.

It’s just as well to go back to the drawing board on Rice field. Perhaps it’s better to leave Beaverdale residents to enjoy this green space. If it is developed eventually, let’s hope there are no major conflicts of interest linking policy-makers to the developers selected for the site.

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Women need to be aware of family financial matters

I cannot imagine what Maureen Boesen has been going through, trying to deal with her husband’s suicide while parenting four children who suffered a shocking bereavement.

Compounding her grief is a lawsuit from a creditor trying to claim most of her husband’s $3 million life insurance policy:

Maureen Boesen testified that she didn’t know for sure she was in a Great Western Bank office at 10101 University Ave. in Clive or what kind of documents she co-signed with her husband in May.

“I can’t say for sure what I signed,” Maureen Boesen said. “My husband said I was there just to sign some documents because some banks need the wife’s signature on them.”[…]

Great Western officials claim they are entitled to the large majority of the insurance payments because fraudulent documents were used to obtain the loan.

Executives for the bank insisted Maureen Boesen be held responsible for her husband’s filing of false statements to obtain a $3.5 million loan even though they acknowledged she probably didn’t know they were fraudulent. The lawsuit said the bank “does not allege Mrs. Boesen engaged or devised the acts” of falsifying documents.

In many households, the woman keeps track of the family finances. However, many families operate like Ed Boesen’s: the husband handles money issues, and the wife plays little role. It’s easy to see why Maureen Boesen didn’t ask any questions before signing those papers.

When I was growing up, I remember my father warning me many times not to give a future husband total control over the family money, and not to let my husband invest too much into any risky business scheme.

He also taught me that “the most optimistic person in the world is the guy on the brink of bankruptcy,” because he always hopes that the next deal will turn things around.

The Boesen story is making the news because Ed Boesen was a prominent local citizen and died owing an unusually large amount of money. But reckless borrowing by one partner sends plenty of families into bankruptcy every year.

A woman whose husband is the sole wage-earner for the household is particularly vulnerable in this situation:

Maureen Boesen became choked with emotion at one point during Friday’s testimony, when she was asked about her children. The Boesens, who had been married 23 years, have four children, ages 22, 19, 16 and 13. During her examination, she repeatedly insisted she knew little of her husband’s financial world and centered her attention on her family. She said that she would seldom pick up the family’s mail, and all bills were sent to the family accountant.

“I took care of things at the house,” she said. “Ed was at work all the time and he took care of the work part of it.”

Parents, please teach your daughters not to cede total control over family finances and not to sign financial documents without understanding them.

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Chris Coleman should have recused himself from Beaverdale tax vote

Last weekend I wrote that Des Moines City Council member Chris Coleman should have disclosed his business relationship with Ed Boesen before voting to approve an urban renewal district encompassing part of Beaverdale. Boesen was an investor in a development project for Rice field, which could qualify for tax breaks because of the urban renewal area.

Coleman initially said he saw no need to disclose his business relationship with Boesen, because the “CoBo” partnership had supposedly ended years ago.

But in an interview with the Des Moines Register, Coleman now says Boesen owed him $20,000 at the time of the key City Council votes:

Coleman today acknowledged Boesen owed him money even as the councilman voted three times in 2007 in support of Boesen’s Rice Development Partners $11.6 million Beaverdale project.

“I don’t think that the appearance of a conflict (of interests) means there is a conflict,” Coleman told the Register today. “It is two different things. I didn’t in any way feel that it was in any way tied to the Rice project.”

Coleman also acknowledged to the Register that he had a second business relationship with Boesen, in addition to a partnership called CoBo Investments that was formed in 1998.

Coleman sold a Beaverdale home on 49th Street to a Boesen-managed company in January – two months after the final vote on Rice Development Partners’ project – for nearly twice the current assessed value of the property.

But Coleman said he did not receive all of his proceeds from the sale of the house on 49th Street or from the 2005 duplex sale by CoBo Investments because Boesen did not fully pay him for either transaction.

Let me spell out to Coleman why there was a conflict of interest. If someone owes you money, you might have an interest in helping that person make a profit on some other project, because that might increase the chance that you’d get paid back.

In addition, it looks very bad for Boesen to be buying property from a City Council member shortly after the Beaverdale votes, especially for twice the assessed value of that property.

The fact that Coleman never received the full proceeds from the house sale makes no difference. Presumably he was expecting to receive that money.

This situation warrants further investigation.

Boesen’s death last month has been ruled a suicide. Several creditors are suing his estate. It is not clear whether his business partners will be able to go ahead with the Rice field project.

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Coleman should have disclosed business dealing with Boesen

I haven’t posted about the recent suicide of Des Moines businessman Ed Boesen. I feel sorry for his family, who are dealing with a sudden bereavement as well as the fallout from his business dealings. His estate is being sued by several lenders.

Last year I didn’t write about the controversy over developing Rice field in Des Moines either. The green space where Rice Elementary used to stand is used as a playing field by local residents, many of whom wanted to keep it that way. I understand their position, but I also know that the Beaverdale neighborhood already has quite a few city parks. Since I support compact economic development and “infill” (new building in established neighborhoods), I thought a proposal for a mixed-use residential and commercial development on Rice field was reasonable.

That said, I was troubled by the way the Des Moines School Board agreed to sell the land to Boesen’s group, which didn’t submit the highest bid. School Board member Connie Boesen is Ed Boesen’s sister-in-law.

Why am I rehashing this now? It turns out that Des Moines City Councilman Chris Coleman did not disclose a prior business relationship with Boesen at the time the council approved a tax-increment financing district for parts of Beaverdale.

According to the Des Moines Register,

Coleman said he had no financial stake in Rice Development Partners, Boesen’s company that planned an $11.6 million project in Beaverdale and stood to benefit from a council decision to approve the area as part of an urban renewal district, making it eligible for tax breaks.

Coleman, who is head of the Better Business Bureau, also said he didn’t know until Thursday that his name was consistently misspelled on documents filed with the Iowa secretary of state.

A handwritten document signed by Boesen in February 2000 lists two officers: himself and “Chris Cobeman, 3600 48th Place, DM, IA 50310.” Other typed documents also spell Coleman’s name as “Cobeman.” Over the years, Cobo Investments filed new records with the state updating addresses, but the misspelling of Coleman’s name was never changed.


Coleman said Thursday that he was involved in no other deals with Boesen.

Coleman goes on to say he never tried to hide the fact that he had owned property with Boesen at one time. However, all but one of his fellow City Council members told the Register they had no idea of that relationship.

The intentional misspelling of Coleman’s name on several official documents is a huge red flag to me. It suggests that whoever filed the papers was trying to make it more difficult to identify the participation of Coleman, who was elected to the City Council in 1998, in this partnership.

The Register reports:

Public officials are not required by law to make such a disclosure unless there’s a direct financial gain, said Alan Kemp, executive director of the Iowa League of Cities. But most elected officials try to identify anything that resembles a conflict of interests, he said.

Bergman, the city attorney, said he did not recall Coleman mentioning his business relationship with Boesen when the Rice Field issues were before the council, but Bergman said he previously knew of the duplex ownership.

“I would have told him if he asked me at the time that I would not have considered it a conflict of interests to vote on at the time,” Bergman said Thursday. “There’s no law, rule, regulation of any kind that I can think of that would require that to be disclosed.”

Even if the law did not require disclosure in this case, Coleman showed poor judgment in my opinion by not revealing a prior business partnership with a finalist for the Beaverdale development project.

Elected officials should go out of their way to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. That Coleman is the head of the Better Business Bureau makes it worse.

I agree with Drake University Professor Rachel Caulfield, who told the Register that the misspelling of Coleman’s name on documents is “certainly worthy of a deeper investigation.”

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