In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the Williams County Board of Elections tossed out a voter registration challenge against Pioneer resident Jim Fee filed by Pioneer Mayor Ed Kidston.
Kidston was challenging Fee’s residency, which elections staff said is listed on his voter registration as of August 2018 as 107 E. Baubice St., also the location of Fee’s business, Jim’s Barber Shop.
Kidston claimed that Fee lives outside Pioneer in Bridgewater Township at a single-family residence on County Road R. Kidston entered into evidence utility bills that he said would indicate 107 E. Baubice St. was used only as a business, in comparison to 101 E. Baubice St., which Kidston said reflects usage as a business and a residence.
Elections Director A.J. Nowaczyk confirmed that Fee voted in November 2018 in Pioneer.
Kidston said it was “common knowledge” Fee lives on County Road R, though he offered no other evidence other than the utility bills.
“If he actually lives in Pioneer, he didn’t pay Pioneer income taxes and Pioneer utilities, so I don’t care how this deal goes. You guys determine where he lives,” Kidston told the board. “He either owes Pioneer utilities and income taxes or he lives on County Road R,” Kidston said.
Board member Paul Duggan said the burden was on Kidston to prove Fee lives on County Road R, and when the board asked Fee for comment, his attorney, Stephen M. Maloney, of the Wauseon film of Barber, Kaper, Stamm, McWatters & Whitlock, addressed the board.
“Thus far I’ve not heard anything that would rise to the level of actually challenging his established residency ... I don’t think the complaint has established anything wrong yet,” Maloney said.
When questioned by board chairman Mark Fox, Fee indicated that he lives at 107 E. Baubice St., as he and his wife are separated. He said she lives in the house on County Road R while they are separated. Fee said he also owns and pays bills for the County Road R residence because he said his wife doesn’t have the means to pay the bills there.
“I’ve used both places as a residency ... I view 107 as my permanent residence,” Fee said, adding that in summer 2018 he filed for voter registration at 107 Baubice St., as he and his wife continue to work on their relationship.
The board and staff, including Nowaczyk and Deputy Elections Director Katrena Ebersole, along with the board’s legal representative, Williams County Assistant Prosecutor Stacy Stiriz, convened into closed, executive session under Ohio Revised Code 121.22 (G)(3) to discuss a determination. The board emerged after five minutes to open session, ruling that Kidston’s challenge was not upheld.
Asked by The Bryan Times why Kidston filed a challenge of his voter registration, Fee did not offer an answer and deferred to Maloney. Efforts to contact Maloney after the board meeting were unsuccessful.