By CHELSEA DAVIS and MATT MILNER Courier staff writers
---- — OTTUMWA — Attorneys for the former director of the Ottumwa Transit Authority have asked a judge to disallow what they call hearsay from her upcoming trial.
Pam Ward faces four charges in federal court alleging she inflated ridership numbers during her tenure. Those inflated numbers played a role in grant applications filed from 2007-10 seeking funding for OTA (now Ottumwa Transit) and 10-15 Transit.
Ward was fired in June 2011 after a state audit harshly criticized OTA. State and federal sources of revenue cut the agency off in the weeks following the audit and Ward’s termination, though those ties were eventually restored.
Included in the court filings is a suggestion that federal authorities might have looked into OTA before state auditors.
In a motion in limine filed by Ward’s attorneys — Richard McConville and Lawrence Scalise of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Iowa — last week, they refer to testimony provided by Ray Wagner “that after the FTA began a regulatory investigation into what Ward was doing, Senator Chuck Grassley got involved and apparently found some way to quash the FTA’s Investigation for the reason that would be hearsay or speculation outside of the personal knowledge of this witness and would be inadmissible under Federal Rules of Evidence 602, 701 and 802.”
McConville said he could not comment on specific examples provided in the motion in limine. Kevin VanderSchel, public information officer for the Southern District of Iowa, also could not comment on the details of the motion but said the district attorneys will be filing a response.
“Ethically I cannot comment on any pending motion or any government statements that are confidential made in discovery,” he said.
Overall, he said the purpose of filing a motion in limine is to make the court aware “that there may be things that come up in the process of the trial that are not proper evidence and we would like the court to look at that and address that ahead of time.
“It’s a procedural thing to alert the court that there’s a possibility that these things could come up,” he said.
Grassley’s office said it had “no record of involvement by Sen. Grassley or his office” in the alleged investigation.
Ward’s attorneys also requested that Memorandums of Activity from interviews of Wagner, Councilman Mitch Niner and Bill Musgrove be excluded from any mention before a jury on the basis that they include hearsay testimony, rumors and speculation “which are not within their first-hand knowledge or are inadmissible.”
According to court documents, comments from witnesses regarding the character or character traits of Ward and other witnesses are inadmissible. Ward’s attorneys also wrote that “witnesses should and can only testify as to matters of which they have personal knowledge.”
“Many statements made by these witnesses are admitted ‘rumors.’ They are unsubstantiated and not trustworthy,” according to court documents filed by Ward’s attorneys.
“... in this case, as shown by the MOAs the witnesses themselves state that large portions of their statement is information provided by others, information which is a result of rumor, information which is nothing other than supposition, speculation or conclusion, without any stated factual basis on which to support those matters or which are unsubstantiated or totally irrelevant to the charges before this court,” according to court documents. “... because of the adversarial nature of the witnesses to [Ward], there is a high probability that, as in the statement to authorities, the witness will provide the inadmissible testimony in response to questions which are not intended to elicit that testimony, unfairly prejudicing or inflaming the jury.”
The trial is currently scheduled to begin on June 3 in the Des Moines U.S. Courthouse.