Now that a judge has awarded damages, the City Development Board in Des Moines must decide how money will be paid to the Johnsons.

MOUNT PLEASANT — Former Mount Union city officials were awarded a combined $105,000 Thursday for harassment they experienced because of theft and forgery allegations initiated by past mayor John Marek.

Dan Johnson, the former mayor of Mount Union, will receive $70,000 in the defamation of character suit against the city of Mount Union.

Linda Johnson, who served as city clerk during her brother's tenure, was awarded $35,000.

They both testified Tuesday before District Judge Mark Kruse in Henry County District Court. No one was in court to represent the city of Mount Union, so Keokuk attorney Curtis Dial waived his clients’ right to a jury trial and instead called them as witnesses to testify before the judge.

The lawsuit initially was filed by Dial in February 2016.

In his six-page decision issued Thursday morning, Kruse said the verbal and written harassment they experienced "were a direct attack on the integrity" of Dan and Linda Johnson and exposed them to "public contempt, ridicule" and affected their "social interactions."

"Accusing someone of large scale stealing does that," Kruse said, referencing the $105,000 Marek accused the Johnsons of stealing from the city. "In a small community, a statement such as this is powerful and devastating when made through a governmental entity."

In court Tuesday, Dan Johnson asked the judge for $200,000 and Linda Johnson requested $50,000.

"For both Plaintiffs, they have spent their lives building a positive reputation that has now been damaged," the decision stated. "Statements and jokes and sarcastic remarks follow them to this day. Both are more reluctant to engage in social activities. Both feel less belonging now in a geographical area where they have spent the bulk of their entire lives. The description as being 'outcasts' was noted. This is far from a case of a simple allegation of hurt feelings."

The judge's decision is complicated by the fact Mount Union is no longer legally a city.

The decision to dissolve the city and its assets was made last March in Des Moines by the City Development Board, a state agency based in Des Moines.

In the wake of the ruling, city assets were turned over to the state, municipal funds were transferred to one bank account and submitted to the board, which was tasked with settling remaining debts.

The City Development Board now will decide how the damages will be paid.

The Johnson's are scheduled to appear before the board in January for their next hearing.

According to Iowa Code, monetary claims against a dissolved city like Mount Union are paid by taxes levied against property within the former city's boundaries.

The Johnsons have lived in Mount Union, a town of less than 100 people, almost all of their lives.

They allege the verbal harassment and accusations of criminal activity began in January 2010 when Marek was elected mayor.

Marek succeeded Dan Johnson, who served as mayor from 2001 to 2009.

Johnson currently works part-time as a United States Postal Service postmaster in Olds.

He told Kruse that once Marek was elected mayor he started accusing the Johnsons of stealing $105,000 from the city, mismanaging public funds and forging checks.

Dan and Linda Johnson testified they suspected Marek made up the accusations because he did not like them, and was upset that Dan Johnson asked for Marek's resignation when he served as city clerk during Johnson's tenure.

Dan Johnson, who testified first on Tuesday, said he was once yelled at by a fellow Mount Union resident during a parade in Morning Sun, which he attended with his young grandchildren, because of Marek's allegations.

Johnson also described multiple instances where people made comments to him at his workplace in Olds, recalling more than one time people said he should be arrested for his alleged crimes.

"I sometimes feel like an outcast in the community," said Johnson, whose family history dates back five generations there.

Linda Johnson, a retired school teacher, also told the judge she has been hesitant to attend public events over the last several years because people often would pester her about Marek's accusations and ongoing issues in the city.

"Our primary desire was vindication from the false accusations and claims against us," the Johnsons told The Hawk Eye Thursday. "The judgment compensation is fair. We want to thank our attorney, Curtis Dial, family, friends, and neighbors for their support."