Jul 11, 2022 - News

Indira Sheumaker's absences raise questions about Des Moines' council

A photo of Indira Sheumaker.
Des Moines Councilperson Indira Sheomaker last attended a City Council work session in person on May 17. Screen grab via City of DSM video

Des Moines Councilperson Indira Sheumaker has been absent from city council meetings and workshops since May 23, when she last participated via phone.

  • Public records requested by Axios show she responded to fewer than 10 of about 400 emails using her city account between May 23 and June 30.

Why it matters: The absences have a negative effect on the ward she was elected to represent, multiple city and neighborhood officials told Axios.

State of play: Despite repeated attempts to reach her, Sheumaker hasn't responded to Mayor Frank Cownie or City Manager Scott Sanders, Sanders told Axios last week.

  • City staff continue to share information about upcoming issues and have asked if there are accommodations to facilitate her return, Sanders said.

Details: Sheumaker has missed three consecutive work sessions and two regular city council meetings, including the latest on June 27.

  • Board members of at least two neighborhood associations — Lower Beaver and Prospect Park — sent emails in June to other council members noting difficulty in reaching her.

Yes, but: Sheumaker responded on June 12 to Lower Beaver's June 10 message. Their message noted their attempts to reach her for "the last several weeks." Lower Beaver also copied Cownie and at-large council members Connie Boesen and Carl Voss.

  • In her response, she apologized for failing to get back sooner but did not indicate a reason for a delay.
  • Lower Beaver members met with Sheumaker on June 17, neighborhood president Jeremy Geerdes told Axios.

What they're saying: Tom Cameron, Prospect Park's vice president, said his group has reached out but hasn't heard from Sheumaker since she took office in January.

  • Cameron supported her as a candidate but now feels largely unrepresented and wouldn’t vote for her again, he told Axios in late June.
  • Boesen and Voss told Axios they've taken the lead on discussion for multiple issues in Sheumaker's ward — including plans to redevelop a longtime vacant Beaverdale gas station site — because of her nonresponse.

Meanwhile: Several social media threads have launched in recent weeks, including a Facebook group called "Where Oh Where Could Indira Be?"

Separately: Sheumaker is one of six people at a July 2020 protest at the Iowa Capitol being sued by two police officers for allegedly interfering with an arrest or assaulting them, according to court documents made public last week.

  • Last year, she pleaded guilty to aggravated misdemeanor assault on a peace officer in connection with the case. She was placed on probation for two years, court records show.
  • She received deferred judgement, which means the charge will be removed from her record if she successfully completes probation.

Of note: Sheumaker did not respond to Axios' inquiries over the last two weeks about the lawsuit or her council absences.

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