Annapolis Alderman Kenneth A. Kirby in the Clay Street community,… (Barbara Haddock Taylor,…)
The Annapolis panel that oversees elections said Wednesday that it lacks the authority to investigate the residency of Alderman Kenneth A. Kirby, who does not have a permanent home, leaving the matter to the mayor and city council to decide.
"Being that there is no pending primary or election, it is not appropriate to investigate or make determinations of a sitting alderman's ability to serve," said Mike Parmele, chairman of the Board of Supervisors of Elections.
Annapolis Mayor Joshua J. Cohen, a Democrat, after receiving complaints from city residents, had called for the election board and the city attorney to investigate whether Kirby lives in the ward and whether he is required to under city law. The board heard testimony from a small number of residents during a public meeting Wednesday night at City Hall .
Kirby, a Democrat, attended the meeting but did not speak. Instead, he released a prepared statement.
"While I'm not a lawyer, my understanding is that the law is clear: My qualifications depend on where I'm domiciled, not necessarily where I end my day," said Kirby, who repeated that his legal address is 100 Conley Drive. "I spend my days taking care of the interests of the residents of Ward 6 and all the people of the city of Annapolis to the very best of my ability. … My political opponents that are trying to make an issue of this, to them I say: You can find me every day of the week either on the streets of Ward 6, or in these council chambers doing the people's work."
Julie Stankivic, who previously represented Ward 6 on the council as a Republican, wrote a letter to the mayor saying that Kirby is required to live in his district, and if he's not, he should lose his council seat.
"Not only does he not live in Ward 6, he does not live at the address he purports," Stankivic told the board.
The issue of Kirby's residence came to light after police found Kirby while raiding an apartment in search of the drug PCP. Police said Kirby was innocent of any wrongdoing, and he was not charged.
Kirby says he maintains a legal residence in the ward he represents, but he acknowledges that he doesn't have his own apartment and stays with a network of family and friends who help him financially. Kirby's $12,600 annual alderman's salary is his sole source of income.
The mayor and council have scheduled a closed meeting Monday to discuss the issue with Karen Hardwick, the city attorney. Cohen has already said that, depending on Hardwick's opinion, he may introduce legislation that would clarify that sitting aldermen are required to live in the ward they represent.
Hardwick said Wednesday she would not discuss the matter until she had advised her clients.
While city law requires that candidates for the city council live in their wards at least six months before an election, officials say it seems to be silent about where sitting members of the council must reside.
Councilman Ross H. Arnett III, an Eastport Democrat, said he expected the council would consider legislation to clarify the matter, calling it a "thorny issue."
"Are we saying that if you are not landed gentry, you can't serve on the council? If you are a homeless person and you want to represent people and are elected, are you excluded? … We're going to need an awful lot of counsel from the city attorney, and we'll do what we're supposed to do."