May 22, 2013 in City

Suit tests whether candidate a resident

Occupancy disallowed for Hamilton’s house
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Map of this story's location

The race for a City Council seat representing northeast Spokane could soon be down to one.

Two voters in Spokane’s northeast council district are suing Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton, claiming that candidate Mark Hamilton should not be allowed on the ballot because he was not a resident of the city for a year before officially entering the race last week.

The suit was filed less than a week after the city’s assistant building official ordered that Hamilton not occupy the home he bought in 2012 in an attempt to establish Spokane residency to run for City Council this year.

The Spokane City Charter requires that candidates reside in their council district a year before filing for office. When he voted in November, Hamilton was registered to vote at a residence outside city limits.

“I believe the people who represent us should live in the district,” said Cathy Gunderson, the co-chairwoman of the Chief Garry Neighborhood Council and a Democratic Party precinct committee officer. She and another Democratic precinct committee officer, Carol McGirk, are the plaintiffs in the case.

Attorney Frank Malone said the Spokane County Democratic Party paid the $240 filing fee for the case and that his work on the case is as a volunteer.

If Hamilton is disqualified by a Spokane County Superior Court judge, only incumbent council member Amber Waldref would be on the ballot for the November election.

Asked at a City Council meeting Monday to comment about the city’s order not to live in his home at 217 E. Pacific Ave., Hamilton replied, “Take a hike.” He said he believes he’s been treated unfairly by the media.

Hamilton, a real estate agent and pastor, owns another home on White Road south of city limits, but he has repeatedly said that his primary residence since May is the home at 217 E. Pacific Ave., which as of last week had “no known primary heat source,” no smoke detectors and unfinished lighting, outlets and switches, according to a city building report. The home’s electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems also had not been inspected.

Assistant Building Official Dan Skindzier said the home is unsafe and ordered that no one can live in it until inspections have been completed.

To qualify as a candidate, Hamilton must establish that he lived in the district by May 17, 2012.

County records indicate that Hamilton bought the home on Pacific Avenue in June. City records say Hamilton approached city building officials on June 5, 2012, and said he “was interested in purchasing” the home.

Hamilton said at a hearing earlier this month that those records are mistaken. He has claimed he has paperwork to prove he bought the house in May.

The home was under the oversight of the city Building Department since 2008 because of substandard conditions.

Hamilton has gutted it and substantially improved its exterior.

The city described the residence as uninhabitable in October, but Hamilton told a reporter in February that he had spent the majority of his nights there since he bought the home.

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