Homer City Council recap: October 14, 2019

Oct 15, 2019

Credit City of Homer

In a marathon meeting Monday night that packed the council chambers, the Homer City Council unanimously certified the October municipal election results and seated Storm Hansen-Cavasos and Joey Evensen on the council.  Council members also officially called for an investigation into the eligibility of Hansen-Cavasos after numerous people came forward questioning her claim of residency in the City of Homer.

The complaint was brought forward by candidate and incumbent councilman Tom Stroozas, who was unseated when he received 18 percent of the votes in the Oct. 1 election. Stroozas said he was responding to significant evidence pointing to Hansen-Cavasos’ residency outside the city limits as late as last July. According to city code, candidates for city council must be residents of the city for a year prior to the election. Community residents submitted Facebook posts and text conversations alleging that Hansen-Cavasos was still living at a Fritz Creek residence until mid-summer.

Hansen-Cavasos’ lawyer offered an alternate explanation.
In a letter to the city, attorney Libby Bakalar stated that her client separated from her husband in May of 2018 and moved in with her mother to the family home on Mission Road. Her husband kept the home they had rented together in Fritz Creek, though she visited the property to mow the lawn and retrieve belongings.

After hearing testimony from both those for and against seating Hansen-Cavasos, the city council questioned newly appointed city attorney Michael Gatti after ruling that Stroozas had a conflict of interest and must leave the council table for the duration of the discussion into the investigation.
 

Gatti explained that should they proceed with the investigation, with the council, reviewing evidence gathered by the city manager and attorney,  That evidence would likely be taken via affidavits under oath.
If seated, Hansen-Cavasos would not participate in the investigation.
Gatti said he couldn’t tell the council how it should proceed with the vote.
 “...sometimes the Zen approach works — you could seat the two candidates, do an investigation and see where the chips fall.," saig Gatti.

The council voted unanimously in favor of pursuing the investigation, then took up the issue of whether to seat one or both of the candidates by certifying the election results. Councilmember Heath Smith said he struggled with certifying the election because if the investigation revealed that Hansen-Cavasos was not eligible, the seat would be filled by an appointed council member, not a person voted for by the citizens. Councilmember Shelly Erickson lost the election to Hansen-Cavasos by only seven votes. 

Councilmember Donna Aderhold, however, disagreed with Smith.
“Voters went to the polls and voted for people they presumed were qualified to be elected into office,” Aderhold said. “We need to move forward honoring the wishes of the voters and also presuming innocence rather than presuming guilty. That is the way the U.S. is supposed to work and that is the way we should act.”

If the claims of  ineligibility are affirmed by investigation, the council would then appoint a candidate to the seat from the community for a one-year term.