The question regarding Commissioner Ron Haven’s residency was answered Tuesday morning when the Macon County Board of Elections unanimously decided to not uphold a candidacy challenge filed by Macon County District II resident Charles Nichols.
“I am thankful for all of the support I have received from so many Macon County Citizens from all parties,” said Haven in a statement. “I will continue to serve Macon County to the best of my ability with our other commissioners in obtaining the best place to live on earth.”
With the aid of local attorney Orville Coward Jr., Haven testified under oath to the Board of Elections and in front of a packed courtroom that although he owns property at 750 Mill Creek Road, he resides at 433 East Palmer Street in Franklin.
“I think the candidate is pleased with the outcome and everyone else should be too,” Coward said of the results. “I think justice was served and the board of elections followed the law. I truly believe that justice was served because I honestly think he [Haven] lives within District II.”
“The Board of Elections took this matter seriously and researched everything thoroughly,” said board member Gary Dills. “We met with attorneys and wanted to make sure we understand and considered all the factual evidence presented to us. I think the board’s unanimous decision goes to show that the we put politics aside and looked at the evidence.”
Haven’s residency and candidacy eligibility was brought into question last week when Nichols’ filed a challenge. According to Nichols’ challenge, it was perceived that Haven does not reside at the address given on his candidate application, which is the same address he listed when filing to vote. When filing for candidacy, Haven listed 433 East Palmer Street as his address, which is also the address for the Budget Inn Motel located in town, which Haven owns.
The challenge cited local and state records that show Haven owns both the Budget Inn Motel and a residence in Mill Creek.
According to Haven’s sworn testimony on Tuesday, he lives in an apartment located next to the office at the Budget Inn. He stated that he has lived at the one-bedroom apartment which includes a kitchen, from 2003 to 2009 and again from 2011 to present. Haven testified that he lives in the Budget Inn apartment alone, while his wife and two children live in the residence in Mill Creek. Haven explained that from 2009 until 2011 he and his entire family lived in a three bedroom apartment located at the property at 17 West Palmer Street, which was the former Franklin Motel. After the Franklin Motel was deeded to Macon Bank, Haven explained that he moved back to the Budget Inn and his family moved back to Mill Creek.
Coward, who questioned Haven during the hearing, asked Haven to give a breakdown of how many nights he spent where during 2013.
Haven explained that he spent a majority of 2013 traveling, which amounted to about 60 days of the year. During the summer, his family spent about 45 days traveling the country visiting historical sites such as the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore, and over Christmas break, his family spent two weeks in California. Haven testified that he spent about 45 nights at the Mill Creek residence where his wife and two sons reside and about 160 either at the Budget Inn apartment or other hotels he owns such as Sapphire Inn and a property in Hiawassee, Ga. The remaining days of the year, Haven explained he spent traveling for work promoting gun shows and trade show events.
Coward presented the board of elections with evidence to show proof of residency, as requested by Nichols’ challenge. According to a copy of Haven’s driver’s license, which was issued in 2012, and Haven’s voting records, Haven’s place of residence is 433 East Palmer Street.
When Coward asked Haven strictly as it pertains to marital law, if Haven and his wife were legally separated and that was the reason they lived apart, Haven said no.
“People are not required to live a conventional lifestyle, and Haven does not, and there is nothing wrong with that,” said Coward.
Although given the opportunity, Nichols’ did not testify or provide additional evidence outside of the information cited in the original challenge paperwork.
The board of elections ruled unanimously to not uphold the challenge against Haven.
When asked if he thought an appeal was likely, Coward does not believe it is possible. “I really do not think it is likely,” he said. “There was no evidence presented by the challenger so there is really nothing to appeal.”