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Petition challenge to be heard next month

March 23, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - What constitutes residency for the purpose of running for office will be the subject of a Franklin County Court hearing next month in a challenge to the nominating petition of a candidate for Waynesboro Borough Council.

Council President Charles "Chip" McCammon, a Democrat, on March 15 filed a challenge to the petition of Ronald B. "Ronnie" Martin, a Republican who filed to run for the Ward 1 seat now held by McCammon. In the challenge, McCammon stated that Martin does not live in the borough, but in Washington Township.

A hearing was scheduled for Thursday, but Clinton Barkdoll, an attorney representing Martin, on Monday requested a postponement because his client is out of state. Judge Carol Van Horn granted the continuance, scheduling the hearing for Monday, April 4, at 9 a.m.

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"It is expected there will not be any factual dispute regarding Martin's residency status, but the dispute will largely be of a legal nature, dealing with interpretation" of residency requirements spelled out in the Pennsylvania Borough Code, Barkdoll wrote in his petition.

"There's a lot of definitions to the word residence," Barkdoll said Tuesday. He said there are instances where people legally list as their residence a place where they do not presently reside.

That includes college students who may be away from their homes for several years, or military personnel who are transferred or deployed regularly, but maintain a legal residence, Barkdoll said.

"It is my understanding they do not dispute the facts. The facts being he (Martin) does not live in Waynesboro," said Thomas Finucane, the attorney representing McCammon.

Finucane said Martin was registered to vote in Florida until May 2004 when he registered to vote at 114 Barnett Ave., which is in Washington Township. A month later, Martin changed his address with the county Voter Registration Office to 66 State Hill Road.

Finucane said that address is "an empty house."

When Martin voted by absentee ballot in the November general election, the ballot was mailed to the Barnett Avenue address, according to county voter records.

County records showed that Martin was not registered to vote in Franklin County from 1992, when the office received notice he had registered in Collier County, Fla., to May 2004, when he listed his previous address as being in Polk County, Fla.

According to the Pennsylvania Council Handbook, a publication of the Department of Community and Economic Development, qualified candidates for borough council "must have resided in the borough continuously for at least one year before their election."

"Intention or voter registration is not enough; the actuality of an individual's residence is better determined by conduct than by words," the handbook further states. "A person cannot declare a domicile inconsistent with the facts of where one actually lives."

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