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North Miami Beach runoff election may be in judge’s hands

North Miami Beach’s runoff election will be held Tuesday, but with one caveat: The city’s canvassing board cannot certify the official results until further order from the courts.

Judge Darrin Gayles of the 11th Judicial Circuit Court made that decision Monday after a hearing in which Seat 4 candidate Yvenoline Dargenson’s residency came under question due to a lawsuit filed by her opponent North Miami Beach Councilwoman Beth Spiegel. A hearing to decide on further action was set for Wednesday, but a time had not been determined as of Tuesday afternoon.

In her lawsuit, Spiegel alleged that Dargenson violated the city charter requirement that candidates must continuously reside in North Miami Beach for one year prior to the qualifying date.

The suit claims that Dargenson has been residing at an address on Boulder Street in Miramar and not at her North Miami Beach address on Northeast 161st Street, which is listed as her residence on various city documents, including a signed oath of loyalty.

“I simply do not find Ms. Dargenson’s testimony to be credible,” Gayles said.

He said that she “backtracked” during her testimony and pointed to the evidence produced in the case as cause to question her residency.

Evidence presented against Dargenson included banking statements, insurance policies and other documents that list the Miramar address as Dargenson’s primary address.

She was also questioned about her marriage, finances, work life and other personal details, such as her three daughters and husband living in Miramar.

Dargenson claims that material issues have kept her family from living in the same home.

“We discussed it, and we wanted the kids in Miramar,” Dargenson said after the hearing, adding that she listed that address out of convenience, not because she lives at that address.

Dargenson maintains that she has been a North Miami Beach resident for about 20 years.

She points to her driver's license and voter's registration listing North Miami Beach as her address.

Dargenson wasn't the only one to take the stand on Monday.

Two men who claimed to be Dargenson's neighbors testified that she lived at the North Miami Beach address.

However, the judge raised doubts about the testimony of both neighbors.

Following the hearing, Joe Geller, an attorney representing Spiegel, said he was “grateful” for the results.

“We appreciate the judge’s time; we appreciate his thoroughness,” Geller said.

Dargenson's attorney Frank Wolland said he was disappointed with the ruling and believes the judge “did not properly look at the evidence.”

“Ultimately, I think, the voters will understand and accept that Ms. Dargenson does live in North Miami Beach — she has lived there for the past 20 years,” Wolland said. “The judge’s ruling was not accurate, and hopefully that can be straightened out.”

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