PEOSTA, Iowa — Peosta City Council members last week unanimously agreed to hold a special election early next year to fill a vacant mayoral position.

However, local residents still launched pointed criticisms at council members for actions leading up to the decision to hold a special election Jan. 14. More than 130 Peosta residents signed a petition demanding the election, negating an earlier council vote to fill the vacancy via appointment.

The council’s initial decision to not set a special election, forcing citizens to file the petition, drew the ire of many meeting attendees last week.

“I am disgraced with this City Council,” said Peosta resident and former Council Member Steve Gremmel. “You don’t want to improve the city. You don’t want to see it grow.”

Gremmel specifically was referring to Council Members Karen Lyons, Kathy Orr and Carla Reuter, who were accused by multiple residents of having personal agendas. The trio had initially voted to fill the mayor’s seat via council appointment.

All three council members have denied having a personal agenda. Lyons also noted that a Jan. 14 special election means candidates will have to campaign through the holidays, part of the reason she opposed the move.

Lyons also disputed the assertion that the recent division between council members is giving the city a bad image.

“I’m just surprised that people are telling us that we should make our decisions behind closed doors, so we make all our decisions look good and in agreement,” Lyons said. “It sounds like they want a united front. To have an open government, you’re not going to get five people to agree all the time.”

Perhaps the most heated interaction came between former Mayor Larry Mescher — whose recent resignation created the vacancy being discussed — and his former colleagues.

The former mayor accused Lyons of falling asleep during council meetings.

“She is falling asleep at the meetings,” Mescher said. “One night, she just about fell asleep on my shoulder.”

Mescher also claimed that Orr had suggested banning local business owner A.J. Spiegel from attending council meetings.

“You want to ban the largest employer and the highest taxpayer from the meetings,” Mescher said.

“Because of his behavior,” Orr replied.

At the end of the meeting, Council Member John Kraft said he also has been disturbed by the tone of recent meetings, but he noted that the board has accomplished much as well.

“We need to, as a council, as a city, realize that there are a lot of good things going on here,” Kraft said. “

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