AP NEWS

Disqualified District 3 Atlanta candidate wins appeal, back on ballot

February 23, 2019

Matthew Charles Cardinale is back on the ballot.

Cardinale, a candidate for the District 3 Atlanta City Council March 19 special election, successfully appealed the city’s decision to disqualify him from the race due to a residency challenge. The election is needed to fill the seat after Councilman Ivory Lee Young Jr., 56, died of cancer in November.

Cardinale, one of nine candidates in the campaign, was disqualified Feb. 13 following a residency challenge hearing. He got an emergency appeal and stay from Fulton County Superior Court and had an emergency hearing Friday afternoon in front of Judge Kelly Lee Ellerbe. Cardinale wanted to have the hearing before early voting starts Monday so he could remain on the ballot.

“I am thrilled, I am ecstatic, I feel vindicated and now we’re going to march together to the Promised Land,” he said of his appeal succeeding.

Cardinale was disqualified by Atlanta Municipal Clerk Foris Webb III, who oversees the city’s elections. Webb argued the Atlantic Station apartment on 16th Street Cardinale lived in for a month was considered a temporary residence and not a permanent one because it was rented through the website Airbnb.

“My decision is also based on the inherently temporary nature of obtaining housing through a service such as Airbnb. Unlike hotels, Airbnb bookings are not generally considered to be of a continuous nature based on the guests’ desire to remain and ability to pay. It is my opinion that a rental through Airbnb is short-term and not indefinite or continuous,” Webb wrote in his decision.

Cardinale said he meets the requirements of living in the district for at least a year prior to qualifying (Jan. 23, 2018), but did not reside in the same home the entire time.

From Jan. 14 to Feb. 14, 2018 (31 days), he lived in the Airbnb-rented apartment. Since Feb. 14, 2018, Cardinale has lived in District 3’s Hunter Hills community on Bernard Street. When the two residencies are added together, they total just over a year in the district, he said.

In his appeal, according to court documents, Cardinale stated he planned to buy a home in District 3 through a rent-to-own program with Divvy Homes. But he decided to move into the district sooner, in the 16th Street apartment, before he could buy the Bernard Street home, because of issues with a lack of heat and several repair requests unfulfilled at his previous residence on Briarcliff Road in DeKalb County.

In her ruling, Ellerbe wrote, “There is no evidence in the record to support the finding that (the) defendant was temporarily in the district as of Jan. 23, 2018 or that he had the intention of removing himself from the district. The court finds defendant’s conclusion that (the) plaintiff ‘did not gain residence in (the district) on or prior to Jan. 23, 2018, as you occupied the 16th Street (address) for temporary lodging purposes only without the intention of making that residence, or (the district), his permanent place of abode’ to be erroneous in view of the ‘reliable, probative and substantial evidence on the whole record’ and this decision was ‘arbitrary and capricious.’ See O.C.G.A. § 21-2-6(e)(5), (6). For these reasons, the court hereby reverses (the) defendant’s final decision.”

The order had to be rendered by 5 p.m. to get Cardinale back on the ballot for early voting, and he said Fulton Elections and Registration Director Richard Barron attended the appeal hearing so that if Cardinale was successful, he could reinstate him on the ballot.

Cardinale said he only considered moving to a home in District 3 because he planned to run against Young in 2021, when his term was to expire.

“I’ve really prayed on the possibility of being able to use my policy experience in affordable housing to make sure people are not gentrified and displaced,” he said. “That was one of the reasons I intentionally moved into the district. I chose this district because I want to help people. In other districts in Atlanta, the gentrification is too far gone.”