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Willis ordered off Midway ballot

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Midway council votes to appeal judge’s order

By Alice Du Pont

Circuit Judge James O. Shelfer signed an order requiring the city of Midway to instruct the supervisor of elections of Gadsden County to remove Charles Willis’ name from the ballot as a candidate for the District 4 seat on the Midway City Commission for the election slated to take place April 30.

The order was signed and issued Monday, April 22, following an emergency hearing Friday, April 19.

Samuel Stevens, a candidate for the District 4 seat, filed the lawsuit to have Willis’ name removed from the ballot because he did not live in the district he represents. Midway’s charter states that a candidate must live in the district where they intend to run and must remain a resident of that district while in office.

“The overwhelming weight of the evidence presented at the hearing showed that Candidate Willis did not reside in 4th district on the date of qualifying (March 13, 2013) and indeed had not lived in the district since March 2009. The evidence clearly shows that the City officials and its interim manager were aware or at least on inquiry notice that Mr. Willis lived at the Ochlocknee Pointe Apartments, a location not within the 4th District. Clearly know to the City was the fact that the mobile home that Mr. Willis claimed as a residence within the District had not been occupied since early 2009, had no utility service and has, in fact, been condemned by the City,” Shelfer wrote.

“The property manager of the Ochlocknee Pointe Apartments testified that Mr. Willis resided there on the date of qualifying and had resided there since 2009. Finally, and perhaps most telling,” the judge continued, “the City, through its interim manager, accepted Mr. Willis’ Candidate’s Oath that listed a post office box rather than an address called for on the form, a fact that certainly should have led to further inquiry.”

Shelfer also found that the “City of Midway failed in its duty to its citizens and in fact turned a blind eye when citizens came forward and demanded in writing that they investigate the residence of Mr. Willis.”

Supervisor of Elections Shirley Green Knight said Midway must now send her a resolution to remove Willis’ name from the ballot.

“This is a Midway election, although I conduct the election for them. They tell me what they want,” she said.

Willis had no comment the day after the emergency hearing. He said would have to speak to his attorney.