Calhoun County Circuit Court Judge John Thomason recently set a July 17 trial date for a lawsuit against McCrory that alleges she was not a Hobson City resident in 2008 when she was elected mayor. The controversy comes from county records that show McCrory pays property taxes in Hobson City, even though part of the property where she lives is within Anniston’s city limits. Hobson City resident Sharon Busbee filed the lawsuit in 2009.
McCrory has said she will seek another term as mayor. The trial will begin on the final day local municipal candidates have to qualify for elections this year, meaning it’s possible a judge could remove McCrory as mayor soon after she begins campaigning for re-election.
The lawsuit alleges McCrory’s listed place of residence during the 2008 election, 100 Church Street, is located in Anniston and not Hobson City, which would make her ineligible to be mayor. According to Alabama law, a municipal candidate must be a resident of the city he or she plans to run in at least 90 days prior to the election.
Attempts to reach Busbee or her attorney Tuesday were unsuccessful.
McCrory said Tuesday that she has lived at the home in question with her sister since 2000 and that she is a legal Hobson City resident.
“That’s my house … I think that during this trial the truth will come out,” McCrory said.
Current records from the Calhoun County Revenue Commission list McCrory’s residence in Hobson City’s tax district. Records show about $44 in property taxes were paid on the home in December. Calhoun County Revenue Commissioner Karen Roper said records from as far back as 1962 show that the residence has been part of Hobson City’s tax district.
“It shows they paid taxes in the city limits of Hobson City,” Roper said.
However, the commission’s parcel map records show the property in question is split between Hobson City’s town limits and Anniston’s city limits. Roper said the discrepancy with the property may have started in the late 1970s when the county developed a new appraisal system. Before that time, the county used less accurate maps to determine municipal boundaries.
“They had maps to go by, but not appraisal maps to go by,” Roper said. “At that time they would just ask people where they lived, then they put down the code for that city to tax them.”
Tracy Roberts, deputy general counsel for the Alabama League of Municipalities, which provides legal support and training in government operations to city and town officials, said the residence’s tax history is evidence that the home is part of Hobson City.
“I would say that’s evidence she lives in Hobson City,” Roberts said of the mayor. “Even if part of her house is in Hobson City and the other is in Anniston, if she pays taxes in Hobson City, that’s evidence she lives there.”
Roberts said his organization receives many questions every year on the law regarding the residency of elected officials.
“We get calls about council members and mayors who have moved and can they still run for office,” Roberts said. “And a lot of confusion comes up when two or more houses are owned by one resident.”
However, the state law is very clear regarding the residences of elected officials, Roberts said. If a candidate has a place to reside and they show an intent to reside there, that is his or her residence, Roberts said.
“It’s the facts about the particular situation that generally are murky, not the law,” he said. “The law is clear.”
While McCrory is fighting to prove her residency, her only announced opponent, Eric Stringer, recently established his Hobson City home after previously living in Oxford. Stringer said Tuesday that he moved into a refurbished apartment in Hobson City at the end of May. The apartment is inside a building on 504 Church St. which Stringer has owned for a few years.
“We have gone in and totally remodeled it with a bathroom, a refrigerator and a hardwood floor,” Stringer said. “I have changed my address through the post office and my power, water and garbage collection are now all in Hobson City.
Stringer noted he still owned his previous Oxford home.
“At some point I’ll put my Oxford home on the market, but right now the market isn’t so good,” Stringer said.
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.