The City of Tallahassee has officially entered the controversy over the residency of City Commissioner-elect Scott Maddox, which was initiated in a court filing by local businessman and government activist Dr. Erwin Jackson.
The decision by Judge Dodson, which has no impact on the merits of any arguments in the case, will allow the City of Tallahassee to argue their position. The City’s position is the controversy should be decided by the City of Tallahassee.
In the motion to intervene, the City’s attorney wrote “the City Commission is the exclusive forum for the initial determination as to the qualification of Mr. Maddox to sit as a commissioner.”
Sources told TR that a decision by Judge Dodson to give the City of Tallahassee the ability to address the issue could result in an awkward process where City Commissioners would become hearing officers.
Any decision by the City Commission could be appealed.
Based on public records request and other research, TR has determined that the City’s interpretation of the Charter is that the question of residency is only relevant when the winning candidate takes office. This means that as long as Mr. Maddox takes residency in the City before being sworn in, which will take place in November, there is no residency issue.
However, this position appears to be inconsistent with the oath taken by City Commission candidates which requires a sworn statement indicating the candidate is an elector of the City.
It also appears the City of Tallahassee, through the City Attorney’s office, is sharing information about the case with Mr. Maddox. TR recovered an email that showed the City Attorney’s office kept Mr. Maddox’s aide abreast of communications between the City Attorney’s office and the Tallahassee Democrat.
Both Jackson and Maddox have issued public comments since Judge Dodson’s decision.
Maddox, who filed a motion to have the case dismissed, told the Tallahassee Democrat:
“This is a frivolous lawsuit brought by Erwin Jackson on his third attempt to discredit me. This one will be thrown out like all the others have been. It’s unfortunate that the price of public service is constant harassment of your family by a government critic.”
Jackson told TR:
“Four years ago I asked the city commission to address the fact that Commissioner Scott Maddox was violating the City Charter by not living in the city. They had no interest in addressing the issue. Now that a private citizen seeks an opportunity to prove this violation in court, the city now wants to get involved. The city commission is not interested in enforcing the City Charter, they are simply trying to protect their fellow commissioner.”
The next hearing should take place within the next three weeks.