A former Liberty Township trustee will defend his Delaware County residency and right to vote before the board of elections Tuesday during a challenge hearing. The hearing is to be held at Delaware County Board of Elections, 2079 U.S. 23 N., Delaware, at 9 a.m. on Aug. 14.
The former trustee, Tom Mitchell, Ph.D., said he received a letter from the board of elections stating until the challenge hearing could take place, he would need to vote provisionally in the Aug. 7 special election.
According to the paperwork filed with the board on July 30, Mitchell’s family home at 4426 Metler Court, Powell, was listed for sale in March 2017, and in May 2017, he and his wife, Ellen, had leased an apartment near his office on The Ohio State University campus.
The filing, brought by a Powell resident who lives up the street from the Mitchell home, Kelley A. Lilly, states that the house stands vacant and it is believed that Mitchell moved to the apartment “late in the fall.”
Attached to Lilly’s filing is a copy of a Facebook post explaining the reason for putting the house on the market and leasing the apartment by Mitchell.
“I leased the apartment because we were going to put our home up for sale to downsize once our boys were both in college. While the lease started last May, Ellen and I did not furnish it nor spend any measurable time there until late in the fall, so I was spending most, if not all of my time, in the township until then,” Mitchell states in the post. He said before leasing the apartment, he sought the opinion of the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office making sure it didn’t hurt the township in any way.
“The township also got clarification from the prosecutor,” he said.
“In my opinion, Dr. Mitchell merely asking for an opinion from the prosecutor’s office in May 2017 suggests he planned on living in the campus area apartment once classes at OSU resumed,” states Lilly in her filing. “And while the house he still owned in Liberty Township was for sale even though he wasn’t living there, he still served out his first term as a Liberty Township trustee and didn’t pursue a second term. Dr. Mitchell should have known better than to have voted in the May Primary Election, and possibly also the November Primary Election since he is only a property owner and not a resident.”
Mitchell said that the majority of his work is in research and he doesn’t teach classes in the fall at OSU. He added, “It’s no different than having a summer home or going on sabbatical overseas. All of my mail goes to Powell.”
Mitchell said that the entire families’ mail, his wife’s, his two sons’, who are away at college, and his mother-in-law’s mail all still go to the Powell address, yet he is the only one “being called out” on his residency and voter status in the county. He said he still spends nights in the house and does the gardening in the yard.
Mitchell said that he wants to live in the suburbs while his wife has always wanted to live in the city. He said the apartment had now fulfilled the purpose of seeing if it was a good fit for them, but the current plan is to move back to the house with someone else assuming the lease on the apartment.
Mitchell added he wanted to nip this voter’s challenge in the bud before it grew into something more. He said he has consulted with attorneys on the matter of the challenge hearing and “they see it as a slam dunk.”
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.