May 19, 2011 |

Open seat may go to appointee

Haines Borough attorney Brooks Chandler has recommended Greg Goodman’s vacated borough assembly seat be filled by appointment until the October municipal election.

Karen Hess, who successfully challenged Goodman’s candidacy, said this week she still wants the seat.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg last week ruled Goodman did not meet borough residency requirements when he was elected in October.

"Whatever its theory, the Assembly’s decision that Goodman was a resident of Haines for the required one-year period is not supported by substantial evidence," Pallenberg wrote.

He ordered the seat be declared vacant and the assembly set another election.

"I’m just glad it’s over," Goodman said. "The judge had a hard choice to make, and the judge made it, and it has to be the right decision. I’ve always believed in the court system, and I think his ruling was fair and well thought out."

Attorney Chandler in a May 16 memo to borough manager Mark Earnest cited borough code that states the vacancy must be filled within 30 days. If the assembly called for a special election, he wrote, "A minimum of 45 days must elapse between approval of the election resolution and holding the election," which would violate code.

Chandler’s recommendation to appoint a temporary replacement for Goodman said the person appointed to fill the vacancy would serve until the October election and the court-ordered election would be held during that regular election.

The term would run through October 2013.

The assembly is expected to discuss the election issue at Tuesday’s meeting.

Z. Kent Sullivan of Baxter, Bruce & Sullivan in Juneau represented Hess, who was a write-in candidate in the election.

Goodman, a former Haines Police chief, moved to Anchorage to work for Everts Air Cargo. He registered to vote in Anchorage and did not return his voter registration to Haines until Aug. 2, 2010. Goodman also applied for his Permanent Fund Dividend with an Anchorage address.

According to borough charter, each assembly candidate must be "a resident for at least one year immediately preceding the election," and a resident is defined as a person whose "habitual, physical dwelling place is within the area in question and who intends to maintain his dwelling place in that area."

Pallenberg’s ruling reversed the assembly’s October vote to certify Goodman’s election.

"It’s unfortunate that I had to sue the borough to prove that they did something wrong and violated their own code," Hess said.

Her attorney earlier requested Goodman’s votes be purged to declare Hess the winner.

Judge Pallenberg cited an 1841 California Supreme Court ruling that argued against naming a runner-up to elected office if the winning candidate was deemed ineligible. That court stated, "If this be so, a candidate might be elected who received only a small portion of the votes and who never could have been elected at all but for this mistake."

The vote tally in October was Goodman, 575; and Hess, 456.

"I’m going to run whenever they hold the election," Hess said. "I just hope it’s sooner rather than later, because I believe it’s been far too long as it is."

Borough attorney Chandler argued Goodman’s time in Anchorage was "a temporary relocation" and he intended to retain his residence in Haines.

Pallenberg agreed with Chandler that "a temporary work site does not constitute a dwelling place," but said Goodman’s job did not compare to positions in a mine or on the North Slope where employees return home between lengthy work shifts.

Pallenberg noted, "In order to protect the voters’ right to choose public officials, there is a presumption in favor of candidates’ eligibility to run for office," but concluded "intent alone is not enough."

Goodman said he thought much of the Hess appeal relied on his decision to register to vote in Anchorage.

"The only reason I registered to vote in Anchorage was because it was a matter of convenience," he said. "I didn’t want to have to do the absentee thing; I know it’s fairly simple, but I wanted to have a voice in the local politics of Anchorage."

Goodman said he ended up not even voting in the local elections, so "it was all for naught."

He hasn’t made a decision on whether to run for the assembly in October.

"I’ve got some other things going on in my life right now, and I’m not sure what the future holds, as far as public service goes," Goodman said. "I’ve been asked to run again, and my wife and I are still considering it."

He said Everts has offered him an opportunity to return for employment in August and September, and he also has property in Mexico he would like to develop. Goodman is retired and works part-time for REACH.

He said his time on the assembly was "a great experience" he "wouldn’t trade for the world."

"I had a chance to interact with a lot of people I had never interacted with before and on a, for the most part, non-confrontational basis," Goodman said. "It was people asking me what my opinion was and asking me what I thought of their opinion."

At recent meetings, Goodman argued against using cash reserves to balance the proposed borough budget.

"On the one hand, I say I’m fiscally conservative, but on the other hand I think that our reserve account is too big and we need to pay it down by fixing infrastructure," he said. "It sounds like I’m a fiscal conservative because I want them to balance the budget, but that’s only following the wishes of the people who voted for a balanced budget initiative some years ago."

Goodman said he looked at borough code before filing for the election last year and talked to several people about his eligibility. As the appeal moved through the court system, he was encouraged when Rahm Emanuel was declared eligible to run for Mayor of Chicago after serving in the White House.

Goodman said following the court’s ruling, he assumes he became eligible to run for the assembly last month.

"I would say I’m a resident now, but, of course, I don’t want to leave anything up for interpretation," Goodman said.