A candidate for a seat on the Deer Park City Council will appear on the ballot even though he doesn’t meet a residency requirement to run.
Voters in Deer Park apparently are ready for a change on the City Council, voting out 12-year incumbent Mary Babb and advancing two political novices, Billy Costello and Jason Upchurch, in the August primary.
But records from the Spokane County Assessor’s Office show that Costello purchased his house in Deer Park in April and previously lived in Colbert since 2012. Deer Park is a code city, and Washington law requires city council candidates in code cities to have been a resident for one year before being elected.
Costello said he had no idea there was a one-year residency requirement and didn’t intend to do anything improper. He said it’s no secret that he recently moved to Deer Park.
“I had no intention of this happening,” he said. “I’ve been straightforward with everyone.”
Upchurch, the pastor of Redeemer Bible Church, said he’s known for months about Costello’s recent move to Deer Park, but said he didn’t realize that one year of residency was a requirement to run.
“I didn’t know there were requirements,” he said.
Upchurch, who has served on Deer Park’s planning commission, said he believes he’s a better candidate for the position because he’s lived in Deer Park for a decade and doesn’t think Costello knows enough about the community to represent it effectively.
“I’ve been here 11 years,” he said. “I know my city.”
Although Costello has been a resident for only a few months since the spring, he opened his State Farm Insurance office in Deer Park in 2018.
The apparent lack of residency likely would disqualify Costello from holding office, but what happens next is uncertain. A council candidate in Spokane, Tyler LeMasters, was ordered removed from the ballot in August by a judge after a complaint was filed against him in Spokane County Superior Court alleging he did not meet the one-year residency requirement.
It’s too late to remove Costello from the November ballot, said Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton. Doing so would have taken an order from a judge before the ballots were printed.
Dalton said her office does not check candidate residency when people file to run for office.
“That is not something the Auditor’s Office verifies,” she said.
In the August primary, Upchurch received 44% of the vote, and Costello got 27%. Babb, the incumbent, came in third with 22% of the vote.
If Upchurch wins, the results stand. But if Costello wins, his votes will count unless someone files a complaint and a judge orders that Costello is ineligible to hold office, and the votes cast for him will not be counted, Dalton said.
“A qualified elector would have to challenge his candidacy in court,” she said.
If Costello wins and no complaint is filed, he would be considered the winning candidate.
“If the candidate wins, the candidate wins,” Dalton said. “If he chooses to take the oath of office, he would serve until someone challenges him.”
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