Tuesday, September 07, 1999

Two black groups back councilman

Does Booth really live in Cinci?

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The NAACP and the Baptist Ministers Conference have weighed into the legal battle over whether Cincinnati Councilman Paul Booth is a city resident with a legal opinion, arguing that Mr. Booth should be on the November ballot.

        Lawyer Eric Kearney, on behalf of the two African-American organizations, will deliver a “friend of the court” opinion to the Hamilton County Board of Elections this morning. It will argue that Mr. Booth, who owns a home in Amberley Village, has shown his “intent” to be a Cincinnati resident by renting an Oakley apartment in December.

        “The Ohio Supreme Court has been very clear in past cases that a person's present intention to live somewhere determines his residency,” said Mr. Kearney.

        The issue flared when Markus Jenkins, an officer of the Hamilton County Republican Party, filed a complaint with the board of elections claiming that the Democrat, appointed to his council seat last December, cannot qualify as a candidate this year, claiming Mr. Booth and his family do not live in the Oakley apartment.

        The board of elections will hold a hearing on the complaint Wednesday. If the two Democrats and two Republicans on the board vote along party lines on the issue, it will be decided by Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, a Republican.

        The Republican challenge to Mr. Booth was based on a definition of residency in Ohio law, which says that a candidate's residency is “the place where the family of a married man or woman resides.”

        Mr. Kearney said an alternate definition in Ohio law says that a candidate's residency should be the place “to which, whenever he is absent, the person has the intention of returning.”

        “In Paul's case, that is Oakley,” Mr. Kearney said.

        Mr. Kearney said the NAACP and Baptist Ministers Conference are filing the brief to “make sure that argument is made to the board. We didn't know if it would be or not.”

        Kim K. Burke, attorney for Mr. Jenkins and the Republican Party, could not be reached for comment Monday.

        Tim Burke, chairman of the elections board and co-chair of the county Democratic Party, said Wednesday's hearing would be conducted “like a case in a court of law,” with witnesses, evidence and cross-examination.

        Mr. Kearney's brief, Tim Burke said, would be part of the record “and considered as an argument. We will take all the help we can get in figuring this out.”


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