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Perry residency complaint tossed

November 6, 2018

In a 2-1 vote Monday, the Allen County Election Board dismissed a residency complaint filed against the Republican candidate for Perry Township trustee. 

The complaint, filed by Melissa Rinehart, the Democratic Party candidate for Perry Township trustee, raised questions about where County Councilman Eric Tippmann, the Republican candidate, lives.

Tippmann, in a response sent from his attorney to the Election Board last week, acknowledged that he has moved from his home on Willowind Trail but said the relocation is temporary. Tippmann has said he bought and moved to a home on Lake Avenue to be closer to his daughter’s dance classes downtown at Fort Wayne Ballet. 

Tippmann told the board he intends to return to his home on Willowind Trail as early as January and has not changed his official place of residence or his voter registration. Tippmann is currently renting out his Perry Township home. 

If Tippmann wins today’s election, his term would begin Jan. 1. Perry Township is north of the Fort Wayne city limits and includes Huntertown. 

During Monday’s meeting, Election Board Chairman Tom Hardin, one of two Republicans on the board, said in his opinion there is nothing for the Election Board to rule on and that the proper remedy would have been for the Allen County Democratic Party to file a lawsuit challenging Tippmann’s residence. 

Lisbeth Borgmann, the other Republican on the board, agreed, stating that “it all boils down to a person’s intent” and Tippmann has indicated he intends to return to his original home. 

“I just don’t think he’s done anything illegal and I guess that’s the only thing we can really rule on,” Borgmann said.

Tim Pape, the board’s lone Democrat, disagreed, stating that all the board has to go on is Tippmann’s word that he intends to move back to Perry Township. 

“It’s really odd that you would say that I’m going to move for a few months. On its face, most people wouldn’t find that a credible claim,” Pape said. “It sure looks like ... he will move back if he wins and I think that’s what it facially looks like.”

Pape said the board should be investigating the complaint, rather than simply accepting the written statement that was submitted by Tippmann’s attorney. Specifically, Pape said he’d like to see a lease indicating that the home’s tenant will move out by January.

“The standard the board is creating is, we will just rely on whatever the candidate says,” Pape said. “We’re not going to conduct investigations, even if we have reason to do so, we’re just going to accept that. I think that’s a dereliction of our duty.”

dgong@jg.net

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