Spokane Council candidate’s residency doubts resurface
More doubts are being raised about a Spokane City Council candidate’s eligibility to hold the seat he’s seeking even as he continues to run an active campaign and collect contributions, including from a former state Supreme Court justice.
Mark Hamilton, a pastor and real estate agent, says he’s been living since May at a dilapidated Spokane house he bought that month and declared his official home to meet city residency requirements, even though he voted outside the city in November. Now, utility records and the recollections of a handyman who helped Hamilton fix up the home at 217 E. Pacific Ave. raise additional questions about whether the candidate who still owns a home south of Spokane was actually living inside the city.
Despite the growing questions about whether he can qualify for the ballot, donors have given nearly $5,000 to Hamilton’s City Council campaign. He has spent about $3,500 of that, and his campaign signs have become prominent throughout the northeast Spokane district he hopes to represent. Among his donors are former state Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders.
Hamilton told The Spokesman-Review in February that he has spent the majority of his nights since May at the address on Pacific. Hamilton said this week that he stands by that statement, though since that time he probably hasn’t stayed at the home on Pacific as often.
But handyman George White, who said he was in the home 15 to 20 times from November through early last month, said he never saw a bed or any evidence that Hamilton ever stayed the night. The only person who slept in the home during that period was another man who worked in exchange for being allowed to sleep in an upstairs closet, White said.
Although he trusted him to wire his new home, Hamilton this week cautioned against relying on White’s word because he is developmentally disabled and has a brother with whom Hamilton has had a dispute over White’s finances. Hamilton, who oversees White’s disability payments, said White is a “savant.”
“You can’t take everything George says verbatim,” Hamilton said. “It just doesn’t work in his head like that.”
Hamilton also said that he sleeps in a cot in the home, not a bed.
“I’m an old backpacker,” he said. “I don’t care about dirt.”
But White said he also never saw a cot in the home.
William Mellstrom, who has known White for about a decade through church, said White is trustworthy and that he’s never known him to mix up events as a result of his disability.
“His conscience won’t let him lie,” he said.
White, who remains a member of Hamilton’s church, said when he first started rewiring work in November, the outside of the Pacific house had been mostly renovated, but the inside still was in shambles.
“I told Mark, ‘This place needs a bulldozer,’ ” White said. “I don’t know how anyone could have lived in it at all.”
White presented pictures of the interior taken in early March that show the kitchen had no cabinets or sink, bedrooms had no furniture, the bathroom had no sink and significant work was needed throughout.
City records show that it didn’t have water service until June 18, 2012, and Hamilton has never requested curbside trash service for the home even though city law requires that all “occupied premises” have weekly trash pickup.
Hamilton said he’s been hauling significant amounts of trash away because of the extensive remodeling job. It wouldn’t make sense for him to also pay for weekly service, he said, adding that he was unaware of the city’s requirement for weekly pickup.
He said he didn’t need water to live at the home when he first lived there because “I could go to friends’ homes to take baths.”
Perhaps the biggest question over his residency involves the fact that he voted in the November election while registered at an address next door to his home located outside Spokane city limits. Hamilton claimed that he didn’t change the address where he was registered to the Pacific home because he was concerned about his mail being stolen.
But state law requires most voters to live where they are registered to vote. Voters are allowed, however, to have their ballots mailed to a different address.
Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said the only way Hamilton’s residency could be challenged would be through a lawsuit filed by someone in Spokane County Superior Court if Hamilton officially files to run for office next month.
Hamilton’s property on Pacific Avenue was so dilapidated when he purchased it for $20,000 that it was considered substandard by the city. Although he has made substantial improvements to the home, it still was labeled “uninhabitable” by a city official at a hearing on Oct. 30.
White said he rewired Hamilton’s home on a volunteer basis. He said he considers it work for Hamilton’s church, Spokane Christian Fellowship, which recently changed its name to 1Body Ministries.
“If I can’t get a paying job somewhere else, I’m not going to sit around doing nothing,” White said.
White said he wanted to come forward because he felt the truth should be known.
“I’m concerned about why he would be so upstanding in church but not upstanding outside the church,” White said. “The evidence is right there. I don’t want to call him a liar, but the evidence speaks for itself.”