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Council: Residency test unneeded

Most believe Mary Brennan qualifies as a resident.

By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer
Published December 16, 2007


PINELLAS PARK - As far as council members are concerned, former state legislator Mary Brennan is a Pinellas Park resident even though she has not lived in the city for the past four years.

Brennan's residency became an issue last month when she signed up to run for the City Council seat being vacated by Patricia Bailey-Snook. The city's charter, or constitution, requires that a candidate be a Pinellas Park resident for at least 18 months immediately preceding the qualifying date.

When Brennan filed to run, she filled out a sworn affidavit saying she met that residency requirement.

One of her five opponents did not believe her. Randy Heine filed a complaint with the City Clerk's Office alleging Brennan did not live in Pinellas Park.

Since then, two other candidates, Ed Kosinski and Patricia Johnson, have questioned Brennan's residency.

Brennan conceded that she has not physically lived within the city for the past four years. Instead she has lived in Clearwater with her sister. Brennan said her Pinellas Park house has been undergoing renovations during that time. But, Brennan said, her driver's license, voter registration and other documentation show the Pinellas Park address and she intends to live there when the house is habitable. That could be as soon as next month.

Jim Denhardt, the city's attorney, told council members at a Tuesday workshop that the legal test of residency is not necessarily where someone physically lives, but is where they intend to live. A court, he said, looks at many factors when asked to determine someone's residency.

"It would take a substantial amount of evidence, I think, to justify City Council conducting an investigation and deciding" Brennan is not a Pinellas Park resident, Denhardt said. "Ultimately, I think this would end up being a matter for the courts."

Council members agreed they did not want to investigate the issue.

Bailey-Snook, who urged Brennan to run, referred to a case in Madeira Beach in which a council member claimed he lived on a vacant lot. The court, she said, upheld his residency. The court, she said, would certainly agree that Brennan is a Pinellas Park resident.

"With all the service she's given the city ... she belongs to Pinellas Park," Bailey-Snook said. Brennan has been involved with Pinellas Park since the 1970s in various capacities, including state representative.

Mayor Bill Mischler said the council should not investigate.

Denhardt said other candidates have the right to take the issue to court and a let a judge make the final decision.

"Personally, I don't want to spend any money on this," Heine said. He said that should he come in second to her he might change his mind. But "I don't expect to come in second."

Johnson said, "I am going to let the voters decide. It's not my decision, it's the voters'."

The election is March 11. Other candidates for that seat are Jerry Mullins and Trish MacFarlane.

[Last modified December 15, 2007, 21:58:52]

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