Board Hears Election Dispute

Article excerpt

Arguments were presented Wednesday in a rare gathering of a municipal election contest board, but final judgment likely will be delayed until next week.

At issue is one of Dyersville's at-large City Council seats. Council member-elect Mark Wagner defeated Daniel Willenborg in the Nov. 5 election, but Wagner's status as a Dyersville resident has been called into question since.

The three-person tribunal, the likes of which have not been seen in Dubuque County since the mid-1990s, must resolve the dispute.

Wagner bested Willenborg by more than 100 votes in the election. But Willenborg challenged the results, alleging Wagner's stated Dyersville residence is actually a "bed and breakfast" style operation and that his true home is in nearby Earlville, Iowa.

"It looks a lot like a bed and breakfast that we are familiar with," said Drew Cumings-Peterson, Willenborg's attorney. "The testimony today will show that ... it was not a residence. It was a commercial property."

Until filing for office in September, Wagner had called an Earlville property his home. But Wagner said he had since relocated to Dyersville full time, and his son-in-law and daughter now occupy the Earlville property.

"By Sept. 9, when he filed his affidavit of candidacy, (Wagner) fully believed he was a resident of Dyersville," said Wagner's attorney Carter Stevens. "He was a resident of Dyersville. That was his intent. His intention was motivated by the politics of Dyersville, and he wanted to change it."

Both sides called multiple witnesses during the hearing in Dubuque. Testimony took up most of the entire morning and most of the afternoon

Peggy English, a witness for Willenborg, is an acquaintance of Wagner's wife, Micky Wagner. English said not once during several visits to the Dyersville property, including one in early November, did it appear lived in.

Rather, English said, Micky focused on preparing the home for use as "Ruthie's Guest House," which was to be made available for to visitors for short-term stays.

"(Micky) wasn't talking about (living there) at all," English said. "She was excited about turning it into a guest home."

Micky acknowledged she had advertised the property as a short- term rental property both online and in a local newspaper and that she placed a yard sign displaying "Ruthie's Guest House" in front of the property. …