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Mediacom asks W.D.M. mayor to recuse himself from conduit project after Google Fiber secures Valley Junction office space


Mediacom Communications is requesting that West Des Moines Mayor Steven Gaer recuse himself from “official involvement” related to the city’s Google Fiber conduit project after the tech company leased new office space in West Des Moines.

Gaer is the chief operating officer and general counsel for R&R Realty, which recently assisted Google Fiber Inc. in securing new office and retail space in West Des Moines’ Valley Junction. The development, which Google Fiber is expected to move into by October, is part of a $3.3 million mixed-use project along Fifth Street.

In a letter to Gaer released to the Business Record by Mediacom, Edward Pardini, Mediacom senior vice president of field operations, wrote that Gaer’s role in R&R Realty “reinforces the appearance that the city’s decisions regarding the conduit network are being driven by the personal and financial interests of politicians, and not the best interests of residents. That seems especially true because we think it is unlikely that Google Fiber would have needed the lease arranged by R&R Realty if the city had not agreed to finance $50 million of Google Fiber’s costs for the infrastructure it needs to enter the West Des Moines market.”

LINK: Mediacom Communications letter to Mayor Steven Gaer

City spokesperson Lucinda Stephenson said in a statement emailed to the Business Record, “These additional allegations from Mediacom are unfounded, and since this involves pending litigation, it wouldn’t be appropriate to make any additional comments at this time.” Gaer did not return messages for comment by press time.

Mediacom filed a lawsuit in December against the city regarding plans for the citywide broadband conduit network, claiming the city of West Des Moines is improperly financing the nearly $50 million project, and that it offers a competitive edge to Google Fiber by granting it exclusive rights to use for 18 months. The city approved construction on the network in December.

Mediacom has previously alleged that City Council member Matthew McKinney has an existing conflict of interest in the project as a registered lobbyist for Google Inc. and its affiliates in the state. McKinney abstained from voting on the project in July, when the project was approved by the city, and in December, when the city voted to begin construction.

Gaer, who has been West Des Moines’ mayor since 2007, announced earlier this month that he won’t seek a fifth term in the fall election.

EDITOR’S NOTE [3/12]: This story has been updated to clarify that Mediacom requested West Des Moines Mayor Steven Gaer recuse himself from “official involvement” related to the city’s Google Fiber conduit project.

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