Former Homer City Council member Tom Stroozas. (Photo courtesy Tom Stroozas)

Former Homer City Council member Tom Stroozas. (Photo courtesy Tom Stroozas)

Former council member files election contest suit in superior court

A former Homer City Council member has filed a lawsuit in Alaska Superior Court contesting the results of the last city election.

Tom Stroozas filed an election contest in Anchorage Superior Court against the city of Homer and the city council on Thursday, according to online court records. The civil suit asks the court to find that Storm Hansen-Cavasos, a new member of the council who was elected on Oct. 1, was not qualified to run because she did not live within Homer city limits for a full year before the election.

Stroozas previously filed an election contest with the city over this issue. The city conducted an investigation into Hansen-Cavasos’ residency and, after reviewing the results of that investigation, the city council found she did meet residency requirements and voted to affirm Hansen-Cavasos’ election to the council. She did not participate in that discussion or vote.

The superior court complaint asks the court to find Hansen-Cavasos was not qualified to run for city council and that her election be disregarded, or invalidated. The complaint also asks for an injunction to keep Hansen-Cavasos from sitting on the council, voting or participating in council work while the case is open.

Additionally, Stroozas’ complaint asks for the court to direct the city to certify former council member Shelly Erickson as having been elected, as she had the next highest number of votes and “would have been elected to the Council but for Hansen-Cavasos’ unlawfully running as a candidate,” according to the complaint.

Thomas Amodio and Keri-Ann Calderwood Baker are representing Stroozas from the Anchorage law firm Reeves Amodio LLC. Amodio said there are several different things that will come into play with the case. He said case law regarding residency for voting is pretty clear.

State law quoted in the complaint, for example, states that the “address of a voter as it appears on the official voter registration record is presumptive of the person’s voting residence.”

Hansen-Cavasos changed her voting registration address in August 2019 when she registered as a candidate. It was an address within the city limits. City code states that a candidate must have lived within city limits for a full year before an election, but that a candidate only has to update their voter registration address within 30 days on an election, which she did.

During the investigation into the election, Hansen-Cavaos stated in a sworn affidavit that she moved into city limits with her mother on Mission Road in the summer of 2018, more than a year before the election. The address Hansen-Cavasos listed on her voter registration is also within city limits but is on Rangeview Drive.

Stroozas and others provided screenshots of texts and social media during the election investigation they claimed proved Hansen-Cavasos was living at a residence outside of Homer on East End Road well within a year of the election. Hansen-Cavasos countered that she and her children would often stay at the home on East End Road that she had leased with her husband while they were in the process of separating and going through their belongings, but that her and her children’s main and permanent residence was in town with her mother. She has said she and her husband continued paying for the rental outside of city limits because they were not sure if he would need a place to stay when he returned from working out of state.

The council voted 4-1 to maintain Hansen-Cavasos’ election. Homer City Code allows a candidate, in this case Stroozas, to seek judicial review of an election certification within 10 days of a council decision to uphold that certification after an election contest.

The Homer News reached out to Stroozas for comment, and local area resident Cassie Lawver responded and sent a press release about the lawsuit. Lawver and other concerned neighbors who live outside the city originally started gathering information to contest the election after Oct. 1. Stroozas filed the election contest on their behalf when it came to his attention.

“Ms. Cavasos can’t provide a straight answer on why, if she lived in the City like she claims, she has filed multiple documents with the State of Alaska and other government entities listing a false address,” Stroozas is quoted as saying in the press release. “And it’s not like this was a one-time offense. Quite simply, she is either filing multiple false documents with the government under risk of criminal penalty or she is lying to the voters – and she needs to answer for that.”

Stroozas later responded to the Homer News and deferred comments to his legal counsel.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional quotes and information.

Storm Hansen-Cavasos is sworn in as a new member of the Homer City Council at a Monday, Oct. 14, 2019 council meeting at Homer City Hall in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Storm Hansen-Cavasos is sworn in as a new member of the Homer City Council at a Monday, Oct. 14, 2019 council meeting at Homer City Hall in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

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