A Goldsboro resident has filed a voter challenge against Councilman Antonio Williams, alleging that he is not a resident of precinct 17, where he is registered to vote.
Zachary Lilly, who lives on Ash Street, filed the challenge with the Wayne County Board of Elections Thursday afternoon. He said that he has nothing against Williams personally, but that he went ahead with the challenge in order to get the truth about Williams' residency.
"The outcome I want is the truth," he said. "I want our leaders to operate with integrity. It's certainly possible he is telling the truth, but if not we need to know."
The challenge comes amid ongoing controversy over Williams' residency in District 1, the district he represents on the council.
His residency came under fire in April, following complaints by residents to the Goldsboro City Council and a subsequent probe seeking to confirm Williams is legally holding his seat.
Williams has declined to provide his address and stated, in a signed affidavit, that he does not believe he needs to disclose his home address.
"... I do not believe there is a valid basis for the mayor, the city council or any private citizen to demand its disclosure," Williams said in the affidavit.
He is also being represented by attorneys with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and threatened to sue the city if he was removed from office by the council.
In order to represent District 1 on the council, Williams is required to live in District 1, according to state law. When questioned by the city's attorney, Williams declined to reveal his address due to concerns regarding his safety.
Williams' voter registration lists 143 N. Center St. as his address, having recently changed it from 304 Wilmington Ave. Williams confirmed in early May that he moved from the Wilmington Avenue home in 2016, and changed his address to the Center Street address within the last few weeks, said Dane Beavers, board of elections director.
In order to hold public office, an elected official must be a registered voter, which in turn requires the voter to provide their address as a matter of public record at the board of elections.
Beavers said that the next step will be for the board to schedule a preliminary hearing, likely during its next regularly scheduled meeting. During that meeting, both Lilly and Williams will have the opportunity to present evidence in support of their arguments, at which point the board will decide whether or not to proceed to a full hearing.
If the board does take that route, it becomes a quasi-judicial entity with protocols similar to a regular judicial hearing. The burden of proof is placed upon the plaintiff -- Lilly -- who will need to prove that Williams is not residing in his voting precinct, Beaver said.
Should the board find in favor of Lilly, it does not have the authority to directly remove Williams or any other member of the council from office.
"The board would have the authority to remove them from the active voter rolls, until that individual updated their address," Beavers said.
Not being a registered voter would then disqualify Williams from holding public office.