Nelson residency challengedTwo islanders say the council candidate lives outside the central ward.
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:57 PM
"Two challenges to the legal residency of Bainbridge City Council candidate Bill Nelson were filed this week, leaving county election officials to determine whether Nelson is eligible for a central ward seat.Nelson filed last week for the open central ward, position 4 seat, joining Wing Point activist Bill Knobloch and espresso vendor Houston Wade in a three-way race.In filing documents, Nelson listed a Park Avenue address in the Yeomalt neighborhood as his place of residence.But in separate challenges lodged with election officials - one was filed Monday, the second on Friday - islanders Stewart Atkinson and Michael Smith allege that Nelson actually lives on Old Mill Road at the island's south ward.Maintaining a primary residence there would disqualify Nelson from the race for a central ward council seat.Nelson, a contractor making his second bid for the council, told the Review Friday that he does in fact live on Park Avenue. He cited what he called an ambiguity between county and city standards for when residency must be effective - day of filing versus day of election - and said he will seek legal clarification of the issue.Because the challenges were filed more than 30 days before the Sept. 18 primary election, a formal hearing will be held before Kitsap County Auditor Karen Flynn. She will adjudicate the matter, and will have a county deputy prosecutor on hand for legal guidance.Had the challenge come within 30 days of the election, the challenge would have gone before a three-person board including Flynn, Kitsap County Commission chair Chris Endresen and county Prosecutor Russ Hauge, or in case of conflicts, their designees.Under the legal standard, Nelson's residency is considered valid, putting the burden of proof with clear and convincing evidence on the challengers, Flynn said.It is a high legal standard, to prove that someone doesn't live where they say they do, she said. The hearing date will be set Monday, with the proceeding to be held sometime before Aug. 19.It marks at least the fifth time in the past several years that such a challenge has been made in Kitsap elections.Perhaps the highest profile dispute came in 1999, when a North Kitsap political activist filed for the office of mayor of Poulsbo. The house in which she claimed to reside turned out to be vacant, and was razed shortly thereafter to make way for a new development. The candidate's registration was canceled.That same year, a man who won a seat on the North Kitsap School Board was disqualified from office after the election, when a challenge against his residency was sustained. The house in which he claimed to live was found to lack basic utility service, and had been condemned by the county.Two other recent challenges, both involving candidates in the Bremerton area, were not upheld.It's fairly extraordinary, Flynn said. We have more than our share of these in Kitsap County, and I'm not sure why.Both Atkinson and Smith are residents of Azalea Avenue, the same street on which Knobloch lives. "