On Wednesday, Washington County Circuit Judge Larry Medlock set two dates for a trial to settle the issue of whether or not Mayor-Elect Justin Green will serve as Salem’s first Republican Mayor in 34 years.
Trial dates were set for Feb. 27 and 28 2020 as a result of the Democratic candidate in the Nov. 5 election William “Bill” Ackerman’s November 18 suit that alleges Green wasn’t a resident of Salem and therefore not eligible to run in the election for mayor.
Green lives at 509 East Tucker Street in Salem but also owns property east of Salem, outside the city limits.
The Democrat party had challenged twice this past fall that Green didn’t live in the City of Salem election district.
However, Washington County Clerk Stephanie Rockey said Green was certified to run in the election and beat Ackerman by 572 votes.
City of Salem Attorney Ryan Bower told WSLM last week that Green would be sworn in on January 1, 2020, and would serve and begin work as Mayor.
Ackerman is being represented by former Washington County Democratic Chair and attorney Doug Leatherbury.
Leatherbury initially asked for a 60-day continuance of the trial date, but an objection was filed.
Green’s attorney, Larry Wilder, objected and Medlock granted the motion to quash the request.
Leatherbury then filed an Amended Verified Petition to Contest the election.
Green will be filing an objection to that petition and will have 15 days to respond.
Ackerman filed a series of subpoenas that included requesting records from The City of Salem Building Inspector, Duke Energy, City of Salem Utilities, Green himself, East Washington Rural Water Corporation, Spectrum, Jackson County REMC, Midwest Natural Gas and Blue River Networking Services.
A pretrial conference originally scheduled on Dec. 11 at 3:00 PM was rescheduled to Dec. 18 at 3:30 PM.
Washington County Sheriff Brent Miller was required to impound and place in a secured location and provide for the protection of all ballots and electronic voting systems used in the Nov. 5 election.
Also, all tally sheets relating to the votes cast and all the poll lists of persons registered by the poll clerks that voted in the City of Salem general election on November 5.
In addition, Medlock is requiring the actual MBB cards of Salem Districts 1-4 Electronic Voting Systems, Mayor-Elect Justin Green’s filings for election in 2019 and all keys of the County Clerk for the secured location.
This issue was first brought up by Washington County Democratic Party Chairperson Briscoe at a press conference on Sept. 18 alleging Green, the Republican Candidate for Mayor didn’t live in the Salem City Limits, despite him owning a home on Tucker Street in Salem.
“I think the big question is, does he really live there. I don’t buy it. I don’t think he lives there,” Briscoe said during a press conference in which only WSLM attended.
The building in question is located at 509 East Tucker street. WSLM’s Becky White toured the house and showed with a live video on social media that Green does in fact live in the residence.
Briscoe pointed out that although Green owns four properties in Washington County (two in the Salem City Limits and two outside) that because the Tucker Street property didn’t look liveable, then she couldn’t believe that he lived there.
“I had to go around the block 3 times to even find that property because it didn’t look like a residence to me. I know pole barns and any buildings can be fixed up inside. I recognize that. If he has proof that he lives at 509 East Tucker. I would hope he comes forward. But I don’t buy it,” Briscoe said.
Briscoe noted a property east of town (and outside the district) on about 66 acres with a $300,000 home, that she felt would make a better home and suspected Green actually lives there and not in the voting district of Salem.
“He has a property outside the city limits is a nice big homestead worth almost $300,000. I simply don’t buy that he lives in the pole barn, when he has this nice property, although it is outside the city limits, which would disqualify him,” Briscoe said Monday.
“I own two lots by WSLM, this home and a building lot [on] 3 acres on Old State Road 56 (purchaed in July 2016) that I don’t have any intention of doing anything with. I also own some investment property,” Green said of the 66 acre lot he purchased in October 2012.
“I would like to get it paid for and maybe see a little income off of it someday,” Green said.
He said he mows the property and stores some things there.
“I had an opportunity in 2012 to buy that [the 66.6 acres] and I did. It’s sitting out there. Row crops and storage. I do intend to pay for it someday. At my age, I’d like to get some things tackled before I’m too old to pay for it,” said Green.
Green also owns and operates Green’s Auto Sales on Main Street in Salem and is in a lease agreement to purchase the business property.
Green outlined his political career and residences he’s lived in.
Since 2003, he lived at 106 Macon Avenue, which he purchased from Paulette Miller.
He ran for City Council in 2007 and won his position there, while living at the Macon Avenue residence.
He still lived there when he ran and won re-election in 2011 and in 2015. In fact, Green lived there until he sold the home on June 3, 2016.
Green purchased the Tucker Street house on June 13, 2016 from Norma Pugh.
Having served on the Salem City Council for three terms, Green is no stranger to having his candidacy certified.
In fact, over the past 12 years, his candidacy was certified locally in 2007, 2011 and in 2015 by Democratic County Clerks Shirley Batt and Rita Martin – neither of whom had any issues with where Green lived or challenged his candidacy.
“I’ve been on the Salem City Council for 3 terms. The current Republican clerk says everything was in order,” Green stated.
Rockey verified Green was successfully certified in the three previous municipal elections.
“Please take note that on the 2007 and 2011 candidate filings for Justin Green that they are the Certifications in the Statewide Voter Registration System – SVRS for the elections,” wrote in an email today. “I confirmed with previous Clerk Shirley Batt that those paper files were destroyed, due to the retention schedule for candidate files. But, his 2015 candidate filings were still secured here onsite [at the Washington County Justice Center.”
“As far as I am, and our office is concerned, there is no issue with his candidacy,” noted Rockey. “The concerns of the Democratic party were informally brought to my attention and the previous Clerk prior to the Primary. [Justin] Green filed all the appropriate paperwork to run for Mayor and his paperwork was processed and certified according to Indiana Election Division guidelines.
“When the informal allegations were brought to my attention, those parties were advised that they could file a formal complaint with our County Election Board and/or IED. They were in the time frame to actually file a CAN-1, Candidate Filing Challenge, contesting a Declaration of Candidacy,” Rockey noted.
“After that time frame had passed, they were told they could file a civil suit in Circuit Court,” said Rockey.
The local Democratic party did not file any challenges before the Nov. 5 election.
Rockey said no formal complaints were ever filed, regarding any subject that was brought up during the recent press conference.
“To clarify, there is also a difference between property ownership and residency of a candidate. A candidate must reside in their district that they are filing for,” said Rockey.
“All complaining individuals were also given the Indiana Election Division’s contact information to seek any more answers,” said Rockey. “As the Election Administrator of the county, I am given guidelines to certify individuals whom are filing to run for office, Justin Green’s Declaration was verified and certified for the Primary and General election, just as all parties Declarations were.”
WSLM confirmed with Matthew R. Kochevar, Co-General Counsel of the Indiana Election Division, that no challenge had been filed at the state level.
“Those clerks did a fine job in 2007, 2011 and 2015. The candidate filings showed my address and it was never an issue. This is the first time this has been brought up,” said Green
“I did see the video,” said Briscoe. “No, I do not have a retraction. I said that I did not believe he resides at the Tucker Street address. I still don’t. I think it was nice of you to follow up w/the interview & get us a look inside though.”
Green won the Republican nomination against challenger Ron Haendiges in the May 2019 Primary.
Back in September, it was pointed out that Ackerman does not own property in the City of Salem but does live at 198 East Oak Drive in a house owned by Penny Sue Buis, which she purchased in 1984. Briscoe said they lived together.
Briscoe, an attorney, said resdency can be a “vague term.”
“Clearly it’s your primary residence,” Briscoe explained. “It’s where you live and associated with your mailing address. The mailing address is not definitive. It’s a good sign of where you live. Where you spend most of your time. It doesn’t mean you don’t have a second house. You might have clothing there.”
When explaining residency issues during the press conference, Briscoe noted that a candidate for office had to be a land owner of the residence.
When it was clarified that Ackerman didn’t own land in Salem, Briscoe amended her statement to note that it would be ok for a candidate to rent property.
“I’m not sure ownership is a requirement for running,” she said. “But it is for the homestead exemption. You can rent. I’m pretty sure you can rent. I’ve been told by people that I talk to….at one time, Justin rented an apartment here in town. I wouldn’t have any problem with a rental. You have legal rights when you rent.”
It is not known if Ackerman rents the residence on Oak Drive, but that is listed as his residence on political filings.