New Windsor Town Council plans to meet soon to weigh a contention that one of its members has moved out of town.
The residency of Councilman Paul G. Garver, a 50-year-old native of the Carroll County town, has been questioned by Sam R. Pierce, the man with whom Garver tied in the May 1999 town elections.
Without a provision in the Town Charter to break the tie, the council - following its attorneys' advice - declared a vacancy and named the incumbent Garver to fill it.
Garver "should step forward and resign his seat on the council," Pierce said, because the town code requires that "a councilperson shall maintain a permanent residence in the town during their term of office."
When asked about the contention that he lives in Westminster, Garver said, "I have no comment."
He said he plans to review qualifications for a domicile, which were prepared by the town's two attorneys at the request of New Windsor Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr.
"I'd like to see a copy of what they came up with," Garver said when invited to speak at the council meeting Wednesday night.
Gullo, 32, who runs the meetings but has no vote, said he acted to head off "an ugly situation" by asking the advice of the two attorneys. Pierce's letter to the Carroll County Times prompted other questions asked of the mayor and council about Garver's residency.
The council's first act of business Wednesday, however, was to agree that it would use a runoff election as the solution in tie votes in town elections. Gullo said an amendment to the Town Charter would be introduced next month.
Marker Lovell, town attorney for 38 years, and Michelle M. Ostrander, its assistant attorney, reviewed the law governing residences and domiciles.
Cases dating to the 1800s on divorce, estates, out-of-state college tuition and uninsured motorists indicate that a person may have many residences but only one domicile, Ostrander said.
The cases list many factors, such as voter and motor vehicle registration, school and mail delivery, she said. But "the Maryland courts never picked one thing" and, she said, in one case, "One's domicile is where he intends it to be."
The lawyers highlighted a 1998 opinion by the state Court of Appeals on a challenge to the candidacy of state Senate Majority Leader Clarence W. Blount. The high court said an apartment in Northwest Baltimore without a telephone might not be his home, but could be his domicile for the election district - if that was his intent.
Ostrander told the council, "Your Town Charter does provide that the council is the arbiter of the qualifications of its members."
Ostrander said voter registration in the town is an important indicator of domicile. Gullo said Garver is registered to vote in New Windsor. He also said the council might not make a decision on the issue until its next council meeting.