VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - David Nygaard's Virginia Beach City Council seat has been vacated by a panel of three judges and a new election will be held, according to Nygaard's attorney.
The ruling follows a two-day trial where former Councilman John Uhrin contested that Nygaard didn't actually live in the district during last year's campaign and thus was ineligible to win an election to serve on city council in the Beach district, which is around the Oceanfront.
Nygaard defeated Uhrin and another candidate to win the election last fall. Nygaard also won a subsequent recount.
The three judges have ordered a new election, but the date for that remains unclear. In the meantime, someone will be appointed the fill the seat.
In their ruling, the judges note that Nygaard did not testify during the trial, writing they had to rely on the credibility of witnesses. "The court finds more credible testimony showing that Nygaard lacked the intent to permanently change his residence to 20th Street," the opinion states.
The judges reference a Virginia statute saying to be a registered voter requires "both domicile and place of abode" and that the person must live in a locality with an intention to remain. They note that city charter requires candidates be residents of the district they want to represent at the time they file to run. In addition, they say the Virginia Supreme Court has said candidates can only have one legal residence for the purposes of running for office.
Nygaard released a statement to News 3 saying:
"We suffered a setback today. The court has ruled that I must vacate the Beach District seat on Virginia Beach’s City Council.
When I moved into the Beach district, it was because I felt a deep desire to serve my fellow citizens as a member of City Council. The Judges said that because my intent in moving was primarily to run for office, that in their opinion, I did not meet the qualifications under the law. While I disagree with the logic of the court’s ruling, I respect their authority and the due process that I was afforded. Moving to dedicate your life to public service should not disqualify you from serving.
That means I’m not done fighting. I’ve spent the last two months working day in and day out for the people of Virginia Beach. I’ve moved my jewelry business from Norfolk to my oceanfront apartment where I regularly meet with clients and hold constituent meetings. The center of my life is at the Beach and that is where I intend for it to remain.
Soon a special election date will be set and I will be fighting to keep our seat at the table. Consider my hat already in the ring. And once all is said and done and we win yet another Election Day, I’ll bring back that same fighting spirit to continue looking after the interests of the Citizens of Virginia Beach.
I have loved this job and have been honored to serve you all for the past two months. To the citizens of Virginia Beach, I love you all and deeply appreciate your support."
In an interview with News 3, Uhrin said he was pleased with the ruling and said it was clear to him that Nygaard was not really living in the district.
As this process has dragged on for months, Uhrin's been called a sore-loser by some, but he says his actions were the only way to resolve this. "I would agree with anyone that that's not a great way to do it, but if I wouldn't have taken action we would've had someone gaming the system," he said.