There are times when the spirit and the letter of the law don’t quite agree, but that won’t prevent a Des Moines man for running for the open city council seat in Ward IV.
The law says a person resides where he receives his mail and is registered to vote.
“I’m a resident of Ward IV,” Joe Gatto insisted. “I am able to run for the Ward IV seat, and I am going to be the best leader for Ward IV.“
But his would-be constituent, Shawna Johnson, argued that “residence” means the place you live with your family, and that Gatto has merely found a loop hole and an open council seat to run for.
“He has a home and a family in Ward III,” she said, “and he has acquired property in Ward IV and that’s his basis for running.”
For two hours, it was “the letter of the law” versus “the spirit of the rules.”
“You think that from the standpoint of having your loving wife,” asked Johnson’s attorney, “your loving family in Ward III that it is perfectly within your right to change that residency virtually overnight into a different ward where there is actually an open seat?”
” I don’t think my personal relationships matter about Ward IV or Ward III,” Gatto answered. “I think I meet every legal requirement.”
And in the end, the special council agreed. Gatto, had done what was required to change his residence last fall to his mother’s house in Ward IV, and he could represent that area.
“It’s the preponderance of us to believe beyond a reasonable doubt that what somebody says is what they’re going to do,” said Des Moines Mayor, Frank Cownie.
“This is where I’ve grown up,” Gatto said, afterwards. “I was born and raised there, operated business there. I mean these people…they’re my family and I’m going to go to work for them.”
Johnson says she acted only as a concerned citizen.
“I’m disappointed in the interpretation of the law, today,” she said.
Gatto faces Joe Henry in the special election on March 4.