04/04/12 — Council candidate gets approval to run

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Council candidate gets approval to run

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on April 4, 2012 1:46 PM

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Kyle Pritchard

A candidate for the Goldsboro City Council whose right to run had been challenged was cleared by the Wayne County Board of Elections on Tuesday.

Kyle Pritchard will be able to go forward with his campaign for the District 1 seat on the council.

Joseph McLamb had filed a challenge with the board last month, saying Pritchard was not eligible to run in the district race because he is not a resident of that district.

The statutes state that to establish residence a candidate must show actual abandonment of the first domicile coupled with an intent not to return, the acquisition of a new domicile and the intent of making the newer domicile a permanent one.

The reason for the controversy was Pritchard's recent move to his residence at 309 W. Walnut St., a house he purchased in late January. The deed on the property was recorded Feb. 2, but a purchase contract, as well as water and electricity bills in Pritchard's name, showed he had taken ownership of the house beginning Jan. 26.

Pritchard insisted throughout sworn testimony that he lived at his Walnut Street residence throughout March, while McLamb said in his daily walks past the house, he never met Pritchard and was told once by one of his friends that the house was being renovated and Pritchard could not be living there.

That meeting occurred March 7, although the friend, Tony Thigpen, said he only said that some of the rooms were not livable due to paint fumes and other issues. Thigpen said he had been helping Pritchard with some of the minor home repairs within the house.

McLamb said he saw the front door to the house, which had been vacant for some time, was open so he went in and spoke with Thigpen. Hiawatha Jones, a friend of McLamb's who lives on Virginia Street, said she had seen McLamb go in and stepped onto the threshold of the house to get him because she was going to give him a ride to his home a block away. She said she peered into the foyer for a moment and saw a blue couch, a red rocking chair and other pieces of furniture scattered in the room.

Election Board member Hal Keck asked Mrs. Jones if the furniture in the home looked as if it had been thrown in the house to make it look like he lived there and she said that was what she perceived to be the case.

Throughout her testimony Mrs. Jones spoke highly of Pritchard and was quick to note that she meant no insult to him, but was only reporting what she had seen.

As the hearing unfolded, Pritchard's legal counsel, Billy Strickland, relied heavily on documents provided to the board while the evidence presented by McLamb, who had no legal counsel, appeared to be circumstantial.

In the end, the board determined that McLamb's failure to see Pritchard at the house did not warrant the disqualification of Pritchard's candidacy, a decision that both parties seemed content with.

McLamb said he was only seeking to protect the integrity of the election through his challenge.

"I don't want anyone to be taken advantage of," he said following the challenge denial. "I don't think he was deliberately trying to take advantage, but to have him come out and prove his residency -- that sets my heart at peace. I'm okay with (the decision)."

For Pritchard, the decision means his first foray into Goldsboro politics will continue.

"The important thing is the facts were conveyed and the truth came out," he said. "Now I get the opportunity to run and the excitement continues on."