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Contested mayor’s race heard in court

SALYERSVILLE – The court trial between the two mayoral candidates in this year’s election convened on Friday, with opening statements and both candidates taking the stand.

On November 18 in Magoffin County Circuit Court, overseen by Circuit Court Judge Kim Childers, a court trial was held in the case of Mayor James “Pete” Shepherd contesting his opponent and now Mayor-Elect Stanley Howard’s qualifications for running for mayor.

Attorney Ned Pillersdorf, who represented Shepherd, cited KRS 83A.040, quoting that a candidate for mayor must be a “resident” of the city, not just a property owner.

“It is our position that he lives at 143 Henry Arnett Branch and it is not in the city,” Pillersdorf said.

Shepherd took the stand and explained that he was working on a FEMA application for some work that needed done on Coal Branch when he obtained a document with the city limit lines mapped out for the area, noticing that the house Howard lives in was shown outside of those limits by approximately 500 feet.

He also testified that he had requested public records from the PVA’s office, Magoffin 911 and the Secretary of State’s office, all reportedly reiterating that the house listed at the address used on Howard’s filing papers is outside of the city limits.

Attorney John C. Collins, who represented Stanley Howard, argued that the deed to the plot of land his house is on is listed as being in the city, and property tax records indicated he had paid city taxes on his property and some of his cars, as well as receives a car insurance rate based on being in the city, providing certified copies of documents backing up those claims.

On either side of the argument, neither attorney discussed the value of the property that had been taxed by the city, which would have definitively indicated whether Howard had paid city taxes on a piece of land, or a piece of land with a house with a pool.

Pillersdorf asked Howard to point to his home on the map and if it were in or outside of the city limits, with Howard indicating it was outside of the city based on what they had said those lines meant in earlier testimony.

Collins, on the other hand, argued that this was a case of a technicality, with the statute not defining “resident” or “residence” and citing the Boston Tea Party’s slogan of “no taxation without representation.”

Judge Childers said that Salyersville was lucky to have these two candidates who have both been so popular with the voters, and she gave the two parties until November 28 to submit their briefings. She said she will rule in the case by November 30.

Stanley Howard won by 10 votes against James “Pete” Shepherd on election night, with the court currently holding the results until this matter is resolved. Shepherd has held the position of mayor for 11 years, being voted into the office by the council after Howard resigned from the position in 2011.

The Independent will continue to report on this case as information is released.

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