Officials to Review Springville Mayoral Election
By Rick Smith, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa One allegation at the center of the upcoming trial to determine the outcome of the contested Springville mayoral election is that the library board president helped Springville senior resident Dayle McCleary cast his ballot.
"She did not," McCleary said on Thursday afternoon in a phone call to his Springville home.
Asked if his vote was somehow tainted by Library Board President Treva Davis, he said as adamantly, "No sir. It was not."
The polling place for the city of Springville on Nov. 5 was the Springville Memorial Library in an election where Mayor Rick Heeren was defeated by City Council member and challenger Roger Shebetka by five votes, 142 to 137.
A special three-member election panel now will conduct a trial on Dec. 26, and Heeren's designee to the panel, Lena Gilbert, said that the help that Davis allegedly provided McCleary could have made his vote illegal.
"We may have others," Gilbert said, noting that it wouldn't take many in a race decided by just five votes.
Heeren has contested the election, alleging improprieties, and on Thursday the three-member panel convened to prepare for a trial to address the allegations. Susan Cooper is Shebetka's designee to the panel and Cedar Rapids attorney Brian Fagan has been picked by the District Court to preside. The trial is slated to start at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 26 in the Linn County Public Service Center, 935 Second St. SW.
At Thursday's hearing, Heeren's designee, Gilbert, spelled out the case for throwing out the Nov. 5 result, a case that she said centered around Library Board President Davis, a Shebetka supporter, and what Gilbert said was the inordinate amount of time that Davis spent in the library during the day of the election using "tactics" to try to "persuade," "counsel," "intimidate" and "taint the result."
People are not permitted to "electioneer" on behalf of a candidate in a polling place, and Fagan asked Joel Miller, the Linn County Auditor and commissioner of elections, to provide a definition of electioneering at the Dec. 26 trial.
Gilbert alleged that Davis as library board president has said she spent time at the library other than to vote on Election Day to, for instance, help repair a library toilet.
Gilbert has asked that two members of the library staff, one of Davis' colleagues on the library board and the library's maintenance man testify at the Dec. 26 trial about the toilet to see if it was Davis' role as a citizen board member to perform such tasks.
"Was there ever a broken toilet?" Gilbert said she wanted to know. "... To my knowledge, she (Davis) is not a plumber."
Gilbert said as big a problem on Nov. 5 was that Linn County's three election workers failed to do their job by not confronting Davis and telling her to leave or by not calling Auditor Miller and insisting that he come to the Springville polling place to order Davis out.
Gilbert alleged that Janice Johnston, chairwoman of the county auditor's three-member election staff at the Springville precinct, should have called Miller to ask that Davis leave the polling place. A second poll worker, Beverly Franks, raised questions with Miller's office about the Nov. 5 vote and Davis' activities on Friday, Nov. 8, Miller said.
After Thursday's organizational meeting by the election panel, Mayor Heeren called the session "a learning experience."
"I believe we have reason to believe that there was electioneering going on, which is illegal," Heeren said. "Whether I win or I lose is not the object, the object is a fair election. That's all I'm really looking for is that everything was fair and above board."
Shebetka said he expected to be mayor after witnesses testify at the panel's trial.
Of the allegation against the library board president, Shebetka said, "She's board president for the Springville library, and she's in and out of the library all day long. I mean that's her job being board president.
"It (Election Day) was an especially busy day at the library. They needed paper towels or toilet tissue, the library workers has their work to, so she (Davis) was probably filling in trying to help out."
He said she was a hands-on library board president.