Contest Court Upholds 5-vote Springville Mayoral Election Victory

By Rick Smith, Reporter

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By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Roger Shebetka is Springville’s new mayor.

Shebetka’s 5-vote election victory on Nov. 5 had been contested by the mayoral incumbent, Rick Heeren, but a Linn County contest court headed by Cedar Rapids attorney Brian Fagan on Thursday sided with Shebetka.

The contest court included a representative chosen by each candidate and Fagan, who was appointed by the chief judge of the District Court.

In the end, the decision came down to Fagan as the other two representatives sided with the mayoral candidate who had picked them.

There was no evidence of fraud, corruption, misconduct, voter intimidation or voter interference, Fagan concluded in his six-page ruling.

The three-member contest court met on three days in late December and January, subpoenaed witnesses and, at the Heeren representative’s request, viewed hours of surveillance camera footage inside the Springville Memorial Library, the city’s polling place.

Heeren’s representative, Lena Gilbert, worked to make the case that Treva Davis, the head of the library board and a Shebetka supporter, hung around inside the library on Election Day and tainted the vote.

Gilbert also alleged that the head of the three-member team appointed by the Linn County Auditor’s Office to run the polling site should have asked Davis to leave. The polling site also let two voters vote a few minutes before the polling site officially opened at 7 a.m. on Nov. 5.

Fagan paraphrased the testimony of Tim Box, the Linn County Auditor’s Office deputy commissioner of elections, in saying that the questions raised by Heeren would help with future training of election officials. But Fagan said none of the behavior of the election workers impacted the election result.

Fagan said, too, that testimony and the video surveillance tapes showed that Davis, the library board president, was "an engaged and hands-on" member of the library board who did not attempt to interfere with anyone’s vote.

Heeren was required to post a $1,000 bond to cover costs for the election contest should he lose. However, Linn County Auditor Joel Miller said the costs for the contest trial exceeded $2,000, which he said Heeren will be asked to pay.

The county would have assumed the costs if Heeren had prevailed and the election result was set aside or Heeren was named the winner.

The incumbent mayor, Heeren, received 137 votes in the mayor’s race on Nov. 5, five fewer than challenger and City Council member Shebetka.

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