Friday, September 20, 2013

McElrath splits time between homes in two districts

District 2 school board member Richard McElrath said Thursday he moved out of his longtime home in that district during a period of family turmoil but has been spending nights there for the last couple of months,  since he decided to run for re-election.

In a phone interview from his home on Lake Norman outside Huntersville,  McElrath said he still likes to spend days at that house, which is in District 1.  He keeps his dogs there and enjoys the quiet,  he said:  "I work better here."

But McElrath said he and his wife are now living in the District 2 house off Beatties Ford Road,  where he's registered to vote.

That qualifies him to continue representing District 2,  which covers west and southwest Charlotte,  says Mecklenburg County elections director Michael Dickerson  (see a map of school district zones here).  "Residency is where they plan to return when they leave,"  Dickerson said.  McElrath's situation  "sounds fine to me,"  he said.

Don Wright, general counsel for the N.C. Board of Elections, agrees  (read a 12-page report on N.C. voter residency requirements here).

McElrath's District 1 house
McElrath said he and his wife were among the original residents of the Garden Park subdivision in west Charlotte.  Mecklenburg County property tax records show the couple own that house,  a four-bedroom home built in 1968,  and a two-bedroom home outside Huntersville,  purchased in 2007 for $430,000.

When McElrath ran for school board in 2009, there were rumblings about his having a house outside the district.  McElrath said at the time he was fixing up the lake house as a weekend place.  No one has ever filed a challenge to McElrath's District 2 residency,  Dickerson said.

I visited both homes this week and asked McElrath about his living arrangements as part of the backgrounding we do on candidates for public office.  I found no one home at either location,  but saw McElrath campaign signs stashed outside  and two dogs in a fenced enclosure at the District 1 house.

Campaign signs at lake house
McElrath, who filed for re-election on the last possible day, said he was wavering as he tried to resolve a difficult family situation.  He said his daughter and granddaughter moved in with him and his wife at the Garden Park home,  but conflict with his daughter led him and his wife to move into the lake house.  McElrath said they eventually asked their daughter to move out.  "Now we're back in it,"  he said of the District 2 home.  "We've been there every day for the last couple of months."

Residency questions aren't uncommon in local races.  Charlotte City Councilman James Mitchell,  who was defeated in the Sept. 11 Democratic mayoral primary,  told the Observer shortly before the primary that he had moved out of the home in District 2,  which he represents,  and into a new house in the city's District 4.  No one has formally challenged his eligibility to serve out his District 2 term.

In 2003,  Vilma Leake faced a challenge from County Commissioner Bill James and other residents about her eligibility to represent District 2 on the school board.  Leake,  who is now the county commissioner for District 2,  owned a home in District 6 and rented an apartment in District 2 at the time. The Mecklenburg Board of Elections held a hearing and ruled in Leake's favor.

Dickerson said McElrath's arrangements are unlikely to create problems:  "There are plenty of people I know who have a vacation home on Lake Norman and live here in Charlotte."

McElrath will face Thelma Byers-Bailey,  a first-time candidate and resident of Charlotte's Lincoln Heights neighborhood,  in the Nov. 5 election.


Shamash said...

Yeah, residency is a tricky question for many, not just political candidates.

It is also a hassle for retired folks who like to live "on the road" but MUST have a state of residence for tax purposes.

And for people who work as expats in foreign countries, but still MUST pay any required state income taxes to a state they do not live in.

(But to which they MAY "return" someday...)

Of course, South Dakota, Florida, and Texas are popular "choices" for the footloose and fancy free because they have no state income tax.

Some states are even worse than others. South Carolina, for example, is extremely sticky.

It is one of the so-called domicile states which will hunt you down and make you pay back taxes if you stop paying taxes and EVER return to the state again.

They will claim that you always intended to return and were just avoiding taxes by leaving a few years.

I think North Carolina is a little more forgiving.

I once had Alabama claim that I was a resident (who owed back taxes) simply because I had one interest-bearing checking account in that state and occasionally visited relatives in that area.

At the time, I was deeply entrenched in Texas where they have no income tax.

A little letter to the folks in the Alabama gubmint helped clear up that misunderstanding.

Anonymous said...

These people do what ever they want, rules do not apply to them.

Wiley Coyote said...

As long as his voter registration and stated/legal place of residence is the D2 address, there is no issue. His voter registration is currently the D2 address.

This is one point I agree with the new voter ID law regarding students (or anyone else who meets the same criteria living in two different places).

If your legal address is in NC and this is where you pay taxes, then vote here. Otherwise you must vote where your legal residence is by absentee ballot.

Anonymous said...

Funny, I bet CMS wouldn't be so lenient if I used a "weekend home" address to get my kid into a better school...

Anonymous said...

anyone ever wonder why he suddenly retired in the middle of a school year? there is a story there.

Anonymous said...

As usual, the quip about Ms. Leake does not do justice to the event. Evidence and eye witnesses were not allowed at her hearing and the board consisted of 2 democrats and one republican.

Anonymous said...

How would his residency qualify him for athletic eligibility in the CMS system. I bet the CMS athletic director and super have NO IDEA.

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Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter who wins BOE seat in District 2. Both will screw Districts 1 & 6.

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