PORTERDALE - After hearing arguments from both sides, Porterdale Elections Superintendent Tom Fox said that he would issue a ruling on whether or not Mary Gail Shinall is eligible to run for Porterdale City Council on Monday.
A formal hearing was held on Shinall's eligibility at the Porterdale Fire Department Friday afternoon. Linda Finger, who raised the challenge to Shinall's eligibility and is also running for the same city council position as Shinall, presented her evidence first.
Finger said she did not believe that Shinall has met the one-year residency requirements of the city. The city requires that any candidate running for public office live within the city's boundaries for one year before the date of election which is Nov. 6.
"This is nothing personal," Finger said. "This is the set of rules that we have to follow."
Finger submitted tax documents to Fox which she said showed that Shinall had claimed a homestead exemption on a house located on Washington Street outside Porterdale city boundaries, until June, 2007, a time frame which does not meet the residency requirements of the city.
A homestead exemption is a tax exemption for property taxes applied to a home and can only be claimed on a property that is the owner's primary residence.
Shinall stated at the meeting that while she used to live in the house on Washington Street, she had picked up her keys to a live/work space apartment in the Porterdale Mill Lofts on Sept. 8 and signed a lease/purchase agreement with Lofts owner Walter Davis on Oct.1. Both dates are within the one year residency requirement.
However Finger questioned why she still had not canceled her homestead exemption.
"Had she actually lived in the lofts as she stated, she should have canceled the exemption," Finger said.
Shinall responded she had forgotten about the homestead exemption filing and didn't even know that her Washington Street property was registered as one. Shinall said that another house she had owned and lived in previously to her Washington Street home had been registered as a homestead exemption but that it had burned down. Shinall said she thought the exemption had ended when her first home had burned down.
"That (Washington Street) is not my primary residence," Shinall said. "I forgot about the homestead (exemption)."
Shinall then presented a series of Covington Cable bills, bank statements and utility bills addressed to her Lofts apartment to prove that it was her primary residence. The earliest bill included in the evidence was from January, 2007 according to Fox.
After hearing evidence and rebuttals from both Finger and Shinall, Fox said that he would issue a formal ruling on the matter by Monday and would notify Finger and Shinall through certified mail of his decision.
"I feel that in order to make the decision I'm going to need time to review these documents," Fox said.
Shinall and Finger have both qualified for the Council Post 2 seat. John Kottl has also qualified for the seat but was not in attendance at Friday's hearing. Current Post 2 Council Member Mary Johnson will not run for re-election.
Also in attendance at Friday's hearing were City Attorney Tim Chambers, City Clerk Shari Stevenson and Porterdale mayoral candidate James Himes.