Analysis: Judge Gievers’ Decision Reveals Weakness of City Charter, Raises Credibility Questions

Analysis: Judge Gievers’ Decision Reveals Weakness of City Charter, Raises Credibility Questions

Now that the legal challenge to the residency of City Commissioner Scott Maddox is over, an analysis of the twenty-eight page final order by Judge Gievers is useful in understanding how the decision was reached and what future implications the decision will have on how residency is addressed by the City of Tallahassee.

There were essentially two questions answered by Judge Gievers in the order. Both answers reveal a weakness in the City of Tallahassee Charter language related to residency and explain why Dr. Jackson chose not to appeal the decision.

The first question addressed the controlling date for residency. The second question addressed the evidence provided to prove that Mr. Maddox lived somewhere else on that controlling date.

The Controlling Date

Judge Gievers ruled that the swearing in date, originally November 21st, was the controlling date for residency.

On page 28 of the order Judge Gievers wrote, “After consideration of the authorities cited, and being otherwise fully advised in the premises, the Court finds that the November 21, 2016 date when the term of the office commences is the pertinent date.”

Judge Gievers relied on case law presented by the parties and did not explain why she chose the date. In addition, she also did not reconcile this decision with the fact that the City Charter requires residency two months before the election.

This did not go unnoticed by two former candidates that qualified and ran against Mr. Maddox. After the Judge Geivers decision was made public, Bruce Strouble posted on Facebook:

“They are using the November 21st date. But we had to qualify in July. This doesn’t solve the problem at all. Saying that he was a resident after qualifying period defeats the whole purpose of this going to court. I would rather she had said that he had conditional residence during the qualifying period that she felt was legal. This is a “punt.””

This is an issue that needs to be clarified by the City of Tallahassee so that all future candidates have confidence in the integrity of the process.

Determination of Residence

With November 21st set as the controlling date, Judge Gievers then wrote:

“The law does not mandate continuous proof of legal residence, nor does it require specifics [such as presence of washer and dryer] before legal residency is deemed established.”

This premise basically doomed Dr. Jackson’s case. In fact, given these parameters, Judge Gievers’ decision was easy and explains why Dr. Jackson chose not to seek another appeal.

Given this premise,  Dr. Jackson had to prove that Maddox did not live within the city boundaries on November 21st, some 45 days after notifying Maddox his residency was being challenged.

If these parameters were detailed  in the Tallahassee’s Charter, there would have never been a legal challenge.

But think about what this means. Residency only has to occur on a given day. This is not the intent of the City Charter, but Judge Gievers never addressed the intent of the city charter.

Judge Gievers Overstates Findings

Given the above parameters, it was no surprise that the Judge Gievers determined that Scott Maddox was a city resident.

However, Judge Gievers went beyond the decision and made some far reaching statements in the final order that were not consistent with the facts of the case.

Gievers wrote in the final order “No document or testimony conflicts with Maddox’s intention [reflected
in his qualifying papers] that his legal residence/domicile is the 510 North Adams address.”

And then she added “No document or testimony conflicts with Maddox’s testimony that his legal residence/domicile has been the North Adams address since 2012; indeed, Maddox’s removal of the homestead exemption from the Meadow Wood house is not only consistent with his stated and not rebutted contention that the North Adams home is his residence, it caused him and his wife to have to pay more taxes to the county for the Meadow Wood property taxes.”

These statements infer that Dr. Jackson had no basis in questioning Mr. Maddox’s residency.

However, these bold statements by Judge Gievers are not consistent with facts presented in court. These facts include the following:

  • eight car registrations at the Meadow Wood address that were not changed until 2015
  • no lease with landlord of downtown location
  • no regular payment schedule for rent at downtown location
  • admission, when rent was paid, it was paid by Maddox law firm
  • no electric bill in Maddox name at downtown home
  • family driver’s licenses with Meadow Wood addresses

To be clear, Maddox did provide facts that supported his residency assertions. These included:

  • the removal of the homestead exemption from the Meadow Wood address in 2012.
  • tax documents from the City of Tallahassee mailed to downtown location
  • changed address on several documents this year

While there were facts to support her decision, the far reaching statements made in the final order by Judge Gievers were not supported by the facts. These statements raise questions about motives and the credibility of her decision.

4 Responses to "Analysis: Judge Gievers’ Decision Reveals Weakness of City Charter, Raises Credibility Questions"

  1. This judge has a long history of corruption and incompetence. Dr. Jackson should have appealed to the DCA because, as one local attorney has said, “”to get access to the law in Judge Gievers courtroom you have to get to the DCA.”” Examine her record of having decisions overturned by the DCA or cases taken away from her by the Chief Justice and one has to wonder how she is allowed to stay on the bench.

  2. Isn’t it evident that removing the homestead exemption when you are eligible for it — is an attempt to cover-up the true residence — evidence enough? Also, not taking a significant exemption when one is due is not only an attempt to remove evidence to perpetrate the act, but shows a very poor business acumen and an extreme lack of intelligence on many levels. The only truth here is that we remain in a Fool’s Paradise.

  3. Agree with Jon. Also, let’s just change the City Charter to state that any person residing in Leon County is eligible to run as a candidate for City of Tallahassee Commission or Mayor? Wouldn’t that solve the residency issue? I mean, I’d rather see the change then to have our Charter seem to be a worthless document as the way it is appearing now. Don’t you agree??

  4. It’s pretty obvious that something is not right here, but when the justice system fails, it’s up to the voters. They voted for Maddox knowing or ignorant of his residency status. They can remove him if they want.

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