February 10, 2011 |

Hess attorney targets Goodman's voter record

Arguments outlined by attorneys in a lawsuit filed in Superior Court against the Haines Borough and assembly member Greg Goodman have centered on the applicability of Alaska statute in borough elections and the importance of intent in determining residency.

Karen Hess, a write-in candidate in the October assembly election, has challenged that Goodman did not meet borough residency requirements when he ran for assembly seat "E." Goodman resigned as Haines Police chief effective April 2008 and later registered to vote in Anchorage, where he was employed at Everts Air Cargo.

Z. Kent Sullivan of Baxter, Bruce & Sullivan in Juneau is representing Hess. He filed a brief Jan. 14, and borough attorney Brooks Chandler responded Feb. 2. Sullivan’s reply is due Wednesday, Feb. 16.

Sullivan repeatedly cited Alaska statute that states, "The address of a voter as it appears on the official voter registration record is presumptive evidence of the person’s voting residence. This presumption is negated only if the voter notifies the director in writing of a change of voting residence."

"When Mr. Goodman registered to vote on March 26, 2009, he stated that he resided in Anchorage, and signed this application under penalty of perjury," Sullivan wrote. "… When Mr. Goodman re-registered to vote on July 30, 2009, Mr. Goodman again stated that he resided in Anchorage, and did this once again, under penalty of perjury."

According to borough charter, an assembly candidate "shall be a qualified voter of the Haines Borough and a resident for at least one year immediately preceding the election." A resident is a person whose "habitual, physical dwelling place is within the area in question and who intends to maintain his dwelling place in that area."

Sullivan noted Goodman did not return his voter registration to a Haines address until August 2010.

"The facts that are clearly documented in the record lead to but one inexorable conclusion: Mr. Goodman was not a resident of the Haines Borough for the one-year period preceding the municipal election on October 5, 2010, and therefore Mr. Goodman was not eligible to run for office in the election," he wrote.

Sullivan wrote that the borough should "purge all the votes illegally induced for Mr. Goodman," recount the remaining votes and declare Hess the winner.

"Proceeding in this manner will be the least expensive, most just and expeditious remedy," he wrote.

Borough attorney Chandler called Goodman’s time in Anchorage a "temporary relocation." He referred to Goodman’s "long history of living in Haines prior to moving to Anchorage for work" and said Goodman had a house sitter, not a renter, which "(constitutes) ‘relevant evidence that a reasonable person might accept as adequate’ to support the conclusion that Mr. Goodman intended to ‘maintain his dwelling place’ in the Haines Borough, while temporarily living in Anchorage and, accordingly, was eligible to run for office."

"In particular, the Assembly determined whether a person is a resident of the Borough is based on a person’s intent to reside within Borough boundaries," Chandler wrote.

He cited borough code regarding state general election laws. Chandler wrote that these laws are relevant "insofar as they are applicable and not inconsistent with the ordinances of the borough" and argued Sullivan’s voter registration statute applies to state elections, not borough elections.

Chandler also said the will of the voters should be respected.

"Under Alaska law, it takes ‘clear and unmistakable’ terms in an election statute to undo the expressed will of a majority of voters and permit a ‘wholesale disenfranchisement of qualified electors through no fault of their own,’" he wrote.

In a phone interview this week, Chandler said he expects a court decision by April or May.

Following the Feb. 16 deadline for another brief from Sullivan, either side could ask for an oral argument in front of Judge Philip Pallenberg, Chandler said.

"If nobody asks for it, then the judge just takes it under advisement, and he had indicated an interest in having a relatively quick decision," he said.