MOUNT VERNON — Whether or not city treasurer Jim Shipley still lives in Mount Vernon is not in question; he does not. The question of whether or not he should keep his elected position in the city; however, is not so black and white.
Mount Vernon City Law Director William Smith recently contacted the Knox County Board of Elections and requested the office conduct an investigation and take whatever action the investigation deemed necessary.
“Not only is it required that a person be a resident when elected but that person must continue to be a resident throughout his or her term of office,” Smith stated in his letter to the BOE. “... Section 3.15 of the Ohio Revised Code requires that each person holding an elected office of a political subdivision shall be a resident of that subdivision. That section further provides that any person who fails to meet any of the requirements of that section shall forfeit the office.”
Smith further elaborated that a permanent residence is the place where a person has established a home.
Belinda Lanning, deputy director of the Knox County Board of Elections told the News on Friday that it is the board’s responsibility to make sure candidates meet all the necessary requirements, including residency, but once elected, the office has no control or power over the elected official.
Smith sent a similar letter to Shipley in April 2011, explaining the provisions in Section 3.15 and his beliefs that Shipley is in violation of the residency requirements.
Shipley acknowledged he had received a letter from Smith concerning his residency. When asked what his response was to the letter, he said, “I didn’t feel I had to (respond).”
Shipley explained that his position as Mount Vernon city treasurer is “A part-time job. It only pays $8,000 a year,” he said. He explained the duties of his job include handling bank statements, taking checks to the bank for the auditor, and being in charge of the city income tax department where he has three employees working for him.
“I’m going to stay for a while if I can,” said Shipley, whose term expires at the end of 2013. “The people of Mount Vernon voted me in to do a job. And that’s what I’m doing,” he said, adding that he still owns the house where he resided at the time of election, still pays taxes and occasionally gets mail there.
Knox County Democratic Party Chairman Adam Gilson was made aware of the situation when he received a copy of the letter sent to the board of elections.
“We haven’t discussed it as a party; it hasn’t been brought up at any of our executive committee meetings,” said Gilson. “I haven’t spoken to Mr. Shipley about the matter. It is something I would like to do to get clarification from him. He could be asked (to resign). I don’t think we have any authority to force anybody to resign.”
Gilson stated he believes it is the court system who has the authority to enforce rulings on the ORC. “And I believe the city law director is attempting to do just that. I think the opinion of all of us is that [Shipley] needs to follow the law. I wouldn’t expect anything less of anybody,” said Gilson.
Deputy Press Secretary Alexis Zoldan of the Ohio Secretary of State’s office told the News that this matter is of local concern and is out their control.
Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Mavis told News reporter Chuck Martin that he believes “There is some uncertainty in some laws,” but that he would support Smith’s decision if Shipley were asked to resign.
Calls to Smith seeking comment were unreturned at press time.