Town Councilman Ken Starnes is hoping to put to rest questions about where he lives following a move back into his family's Mary Mack Lane home two weeks ago. However, some of his critics contend his current residence is a moot point.
"It was baffling to me the way the whole thing was handled," resident Barry Faile said. Faile addressed the council with his concerns at a meeting last month.
"I felt somebody needed to raise it and press them on it. All this other stuff about him moving back into town is moot. Either he did move outside town limits or he didn't."
Starnes had been staying at a home he owns in Tega Cay since last summer, before he filed to run for re-election for the at-large town council seat last November. The Fort Mill ordinance governing eligibility for office states that "candidates for election to the office of mayor or an at-large council seat must have resided within the town limits for a period of 60 days prior to the date of the general election in which he is a candidate."
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Starnes' argument has been that his legal residence has been and continues to be, 110 Mary Mack Lane. Herbert Hayden, executive director of the S.C. Ethics Commission, said there is no state ethics law governing residency requirements for elected municipal officials. Such matters are left up to local governments, Hayden said. However, "The law says a public official can't use his position to influence a decision where he or she would receive a financial benefit," Hayden said.
In March, Starnes participated in a council vote during a workshop meeting to decide whether he should step down. Because all council members are paid $2,400 annually for their service, Starnes was voting to continue receiving a financial benefit.
At the time of the vote, Starnes promised the other members he would find a residence within town limits by the end of June. Initially, he hoped to move into an apartment above a Main Street business. However, work on that apartment is still underway. Starnes said he still plans to move in once the work is done, but for now he is living on Mary Mack Lane, he said.
"I'm in town and I've been in town over two weeks," Starnes said last week.