Voters will soon know if Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox legally resides in city limits. Leon County Judge Karen Gievers has until Tuesday to rule on the case investigating Maddox’s residency.
If home is where the heart is, the question of Scott Maddox’s legal residency would be an easy one. Maddox says he’s lived at a downtown mansion, at least part-time, since 2012, when he decided to run for City Commission. But local businessman and frequent City Hall critic Erwin Jackson alleges Maddox’s primary residence is outside of city limits. Jackson’s lawyers say the move downtown to North Adams Street was politically calculated. And Maddox’s lawyer Stephen Slepin doesn’t dispute that.
“Was it convenience? Was it expedience? And the answer is, the testimony says, of course! Mr. Maddox wanted to run for the city commission and established his legal residence in 2012,” Slepin said.
Maddox raised his family at the nine acre Northside estate on Meadow Wood Court. And he and his wife still spend time there, though the house has been on the market since 2012. But Maddox says he lives on North Adams Street.
“We made the decision to live in this home. Their case seems to be, because you have two homes, you automatically live in the other one. Which just isn’t the case,” Maddox said.
At a Friday hearing, Maddox’s lawyers presented multiple documents bearing his North Adams Street address. These included his driver’s license, voter id card, health insurance paperwork, and a bill from cable provider Comcast. But while Maddox says he’s lived downtown since 2012, it wasn’t until this summer that he changed his address on some of those documents. Erwin Jackson’s lawyer Thomas Bishop argues litigation spurred the changes, not a true change of household.
“His true residence is the house he’s lived in since 2004, without interruption,” Bishop said. “That has been his residence, and would’ve probably remained his residence but for this litigation, which has caused a fair amount of scurrying about and changes to be made.”
The City’s lawyer Louis Norvell says at its heart, the case comes down to the legal definition of residency.
“The standard for residency has two prongs, and the parties agree on this. One, there has to be a home or a habitable residence. And number two, there has to be intent to make the home your permanent residence,” Norvell said.
Maddox’s lawyer Stephen Slepin points to other similar cases saying, “the best proof of one’s domicile is where he says it is”. Maddox says he lives at North Adams Street: he lists it as his physical address, receives mail there, and racks up $230 Comcast bills there. His lawyers say that is sufficient intent. But Erwin Jackson argues, if Maddox doesn’t live in the city, he shouldn’t decide how city taxes are spent.
“People living in the county, who don’t pay any city taxes, and then they want to tell us how to spend those taxes? Yeah, that part’s personal. But not Scott,” Jackson said.
Meanwhile the City of Tallahassee has brought a separate petition to the Florida Supreme Court. Pointing to home rule, city lawyers argue the residency dispute should be decided by the city. The court has not taken action to halt the county’s case.
Update: Leon County Judge Karen Gievers has ruled Maddox lives where he says he does--in Tallahassee. Read more here.