Igor will stay on Fennimore’s Lincoln Avenue for the foreseeable future, that much was guaranteed earlier this month when a dispute on just who owns the large fiberglass rodent was settled in Grant County Circuit Court.
“This is an unusual controversy, not only because it involves ownership of a portly fiberglass mouse named Igor, but because both parties want the same thing, namely to ensure that Igor remains a part of Fennimore’s landscape,” Judge Robert VanDeHey said in his written judgement on the case, which pitted the Carr Valley Cheese Company versus John Mullarney on just who owned the large mouse.
The story of Igor goes that the late Stephan Bahl, who had owned the cheese factory previously, had found Igor in a ditch somewhere, abandoned, and brought the large mouse back to be a promotional item for the plant. While his home was at the business, apparently Bahl never made the ownership of the mouse by the company official. In assets of the company from a loan Bahl had taken out, Igor was never listed, while other, lesser items were.
The cheese plant was foreclosed on in 2002. During documents for bankruptcy protection in 2003, Igor was once again left off the list of assets of the company.
Carr Valley Cheese, owned by Sid Cook LLC, purchased the plant and its assets in 2005. In documents from that 2005 purchase, Igor was again, not on the list, but Carr Valley stated they had purchased the mouse at that time.
Soon after the plant’s change in ownership, Igor disappeared briefly. While he claimed at the time in a column in an Iowa paper Igor went out to a back 40 to live. While he was stored in a field at one point, Igor made his way to Sparta, where the fiberglass animal was refurbished. The company that completed the refurbishment was given a check by Bahl for the work, $4,220.
But that check was countered by Carr Valley, which showed that a check was given to Bahl for $5,769.24. They reported that Bahl, who was under the employment of Carr Valley at the time, was told to find a place to refurbish Igor, and that he would be reimbursed for the costs. Mullarney had claimed that he believed the new cheese plant owners felt Igor was an eyesore, and that Bahl removed it at his own personal expense.
In March 2008, Bahl created a new will. In that will, Bahl stated that Igor was to go to Mullarney, which actually led to some questions by the attorney helping draw up the will. How could Bahl have ownership when Igor was in front of the cheese factory, and they paid for the repairs? Bahl told the attorneys that the repairs were part of the cost of the fiberglass statue being ‘on loan’ to the factory, but he retained ownership. Bahl also stated that Mullarney must keep the mouse on the main thoroughfare of Fennimore, his dying wish.
“It appears clear that Stephan Bahl said things that caused each party to believe Igor now belongs to them,” VanDeHey stated.
VanDeHey decided, however, that Igor was now owned by Mullarney, mainly because he was not listed in any of the inventory lists for the cheese factory either during loans, or bankruptcy, or the sale of the facility. VanDeHey pointed to the fact that lesser items than the value of Igor - which was listed as worth $5,000 in Bahl’s will - in those same documents.
But while VanDeHey ultimately ruled that Igor belonged to Mullarney, he also felt that Carr Valley’s payment for repairing Igor meant they acquired the large mouse’s promotional services. VanDeHey stated that Mullarney “would be unjustly enriched if allowed to retain ownership of Igor and retain payment of $5,769.24 for repair of Igor, without being subject to the obligation to allow the defendant the right to display Igor at the Fennimore Cheese Factory for a reasonable period of time.”
But just would be a reasonable time? VanDeHey noted that the expected lifespan of Igor’s refurbishment would be 60 years. Because Igor had been sitting out front of the cheese factory for five years, VanDeHey gave Mullarney a choice - he could either let Igor stay in front of Carr Valley for the next 55 years (or when Sid Cook LLC., owner of the factory, sold the plant), or he could pay a pro-rated portion of the cost of the repairs ($4,788.46) and take the mouse elsewhere.
David Timmerman is the editor of the Grant County Herald Independent.