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Judge takes Martin off Waynesboro ballot

April 05, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Ronald B. "Ronnie" Martin's name will not appear on the May 17 Republican primary ballot for the Ward 1 council seat in Waynesboro, Pa., after Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Carol Van Horn ruled Monday that he did not meet the residency requirement.

Martin had filed a nominating petition for the seat, stating his residence as 66 State Hill Road, but Van Horn ruled following a brief hearing that "the actuality of a person's residence is better determined by facts than words."

The challenge to Martin's petition was filed by the man who would have been his opponent in November, Charles McCammon, the incumbent Democrat.

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"If he's going to run, I want him to do it legally," McCammon said after the hearing.

Martin's attorney Clinton Barkdoll and McCammon's attorney Thomas Finucane both stipulated to several facts, including that Martin now lives at 114 Barnett Ave. in Washington Township.

Stipulations also included that Martin has lived at that address since 2001, but changed his voter registration to State Hill Road in June 2004. Martin purchased that property in February 2004, while the Barnett Avenue property is in his wife's name, according to court documents.

Barkdoll said the Martins planned to move to State Hill Road last October, soon enough to meet the one-year residency requirement, but construction delays have pushed the move back until later this month. Nevertheless, Martin has received mail at the address since June 2004 and is registered to vote there, Barkdoll said.

"We believe there is a lot of autonomy and discretion in the definition of reside," Barkdoll said. "We believe ... he has done what he could do and what he should do to establish residence."

"At the end of the day ... let's leave it up to the voters of the First Ward of Waynesboro to decide," Barkdoll said.

Finucane said Martin's wife sought a homestead exclusion from the state for the Barnett Avenue house and Ronald Martin's 2004 absentee ballot was mailed to Barnett Avenue, not State Hill Road.

"There's no way from now until the general election you could have one year of continuous residency" as required by the Pennsylvania Borough Code, Finucane said.

Van Horn cited earlier state court decisions and an opinion issued 30 years ago by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office in her ruling. To run for office, she said, "actual physical residence is required."

"We think we did things properly," Martin said after the hearing. "I could have put a bed in there and slept there ... but we didn't think it was necessary."

Martin said he wanted to thank those who encouraged him to run and signed his nominating petition. Martin said he is undecided as to whether he will run in 2007 when another Ward 1 council seat is up for election.

In a footnote to a memorandum for the hearing, Barkdoll noted that McCammon's original petition included legal research and a fax cover sheet indicating that Lloyd Reichard, the borough solicitor for Waynesboro, "was involved in drafting and/or research" for the petition.

Barkdoll said the borough council should look into whether Reichard acted improperly.

Reichard said last month he was not involved in the case.

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