Court date set for lawsuit over city election

Court date set for lawsuit over city election

Editor’s note: The hearing date for this case was changed after this story was published, and the article has been updated to reflect that change.

Lawyers in a lawsuit filed against the City of Homer in Alaska Superior Court will have their first day in court next month.

Tom Stroozas, a former member of the Homer City Council, is suing the city and the city council over the Oct. 1 municipal election, alleging new council member Storm Hansen-Cavasos violated residency requirements when she ran for office. His lawsuit asks the Superior Court to find that she wasn’t qualified for office and to invalidate her election.

A motion for expedited consideration of the case was granted on Friday, Nov. 22, according to online court records.

The first court date for the case is set for Monday, Dec. 9 at the Nesbett Courthouse in Anchorage, according to online court records. It’s a hearing for the judge, Josie Garton, to weigh a motion Stroozas’ attorneys made for a preliminary injunction that would keep Hansen-Cavasos from serving on the council while the case is making its way through court. Garton was reassigned as the judge in the case on Tuesday, replacing Andrew Guidi.

Keri-Ann Baker, one of the attorneys representing Stroozas in the case, said in an email Wednesday that the hearing on the preliminary injunction, originally scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 5, was changed again after a request for an extension from the defense.

Before suing the city, Stroozas contested the election locally. The council voted for an investigation to take place, which was conducted by the city manager with help from the city attorney and city clerk. After reviewing the report from that investigation, the council voted to uphold Hansen-Cavasos’ election to the body. She was recused for that vote and for discussion of the investigation report.

A group of citizens who live outside city limits, with help from Stroozas, claim Hansen-Cavasos did not live within city limits for the required full year before running for city council. The investigation showed she lived at a rented home off East End Road, and then at two different addresses within city limits. Hansen-Cavasos and family members said in sworn affidavits during the investigation that, while she continued paying rent at the East End Road area property, she had moved into town with her mother to a home on Mission Road in the summer of 2018, a year before the October 2019 election.

Hansen-Cavasos explained in her affidavit that there may have been confusion surrounding her permanent residence because she was in the process of separating from her husband, and she and her children would frequently stay over at the property off East End Road while sorting through her belongings.

Hansen-Cavasos’ children were enrolled in school under the Mission Road address within city limits — the address where they were living with her mother — for both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years. At the same time, she used the address off East End Road to file for her 2019 Permanent Fund Dividend application. The council eventually found that her intent was always to live permanently at the Mission Road address, and then another address within city limits, even though she kept some property still at the East End Road address and used that address for certain things like the PFD application.

Her voter registration was changed to an address within city limits at least 30 days before the election, which is part of what Homer City Code requires to fulfill residency requirements.

Cassie Lawver, one of the residents who live outside city limits, is one of the first people who began collecting information about Cavasos’ residency and support for contesting the election. There is a fund set up that people have been donating to in order to cover the legal expenses for Stroozas’ lawsuit. Contributions are sent directly to the Anchorage firm representing him, Reeves Amodio LLC, Lawver said.

“We welcome donations rom those who are supportive of our cause,” Lawver wrote in an email. “… I am overwhelmed with the generosity of our donors.”

Members of the city council met before their Monday meeting to hold an executive session about the lawsuit, in which they provided direction to the city attorney about how to proceed.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

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