A Homer City Council member and candidate who was defeated in his race for re-election has filed an affidavit claiming one of the winning candidates violated city code during the campaign.
On Monday, Oct. 7, incumbent council member Tom Stroozas submitted an affidavit to the City Clerk’s office alleging candidate Storm P. Hansen-Cavasos, who won one of the two seats open for election on the council, did not fulfill the residency qualifications under city code.
“It has come to my attention that Storm P. Hansen-Cavasos has resided outside the city limits as late as July 2019,” Stroozas wrote in his complaint.
In a phone interview, Stroozas called her “a fraudulent candidate.” City Clerk Melissa Jacobsen confirmed that she checked the candidate applications of Hansen-Cavasos and the other candidates when they were submitted.
According to a public records request of all the council candidates’ declaration of candidacy, Hansen-Cavasos wrote that she has been a resident of Homer since May 2018. Candidates swear that the information is true in their declarations and the forms are notarized.
Hansen-Cavasos unseated incumbent council member Shelly Erickson by seven votes, according to the final election results after the Canvass Board met last Friday. Hansen-Cavasos had been trailing Erickson by 26 votes on election day, but she ended up with 663 votes to Erickson’s 656 after absentee ballots were counted.
Joey Evensen, who led by a wide margin for the other city council seat on Tuesday, secured his win with a total of 922 votes according to the final results.
Stroozas came in fourth with 498 total votes after absentee and other ballots were counted.
In a statement emailed to the Homer News, Hansen-Cavasos wrote, “I understand a complaint has been issued regarding my residency. These very details were vetted and formally verified before I could even become a candidate.
“I am sure the same facts will be verified again. I was pleased by the official election results and I look forward to tackling youth-related issues on the Council.”
Stroozas said he based his complaint on allegations other people had made about Hansen-Cavasos’ residency. He said he heard 10 voters planned to file an application and contest the election under a provision allowing voters to do so. As a candidate, Stroozas said he volunteered to contest the election himself and post the $750 bond to cover costs of a complaint.
Stroozas said that on her Facebook page Storm-Hansen had written about moving into the city, but no such posts could be found on the public portion of Hansen-Cavaso’s page. He said she lived near Rolling Meadows and Bonnie Avenue. Stroozas also said Hansen-Cavasos used different addresses on her candidate filing and her Alaska Public Offices Commission filing.
The APOC filing shows an address on “Rangeview Drive” and her city candidate filing as “Rangeview Drive.” According to a records request provided by the Alaska Division of Elections, Hansen-Cavasos changed her voter registration address on Aug. 8, 2019, to that Rangeview Drive address — “avenue” in the voter registration form. Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said that on April 9, 2019, Hansen-Cavasos had a residency address on Rolling Meadows Road. Rolling Meadows Road is near Mile 9 East End Road and outside Homer city limits.
The Homer News also did a records request for the other candidates’ voter registrations. Voter registration information for Evensen and Stroozas keeps private their residency addresses. Erickson lists her address as an East Hill Road address, the same address as shown on Kenai Peninsula Borough records. According to borough records, Evensen has a house on Ocean Drive Loop and Stroozas has a house on Don’s Drive off East Skyline Drive. The Evensen, Erickson and Stroozas addresses match those in their candidate declarations. All addresses are in city limits. Evensen, Erickson and Stroozas are all registered to vote in the city and at Homer Precinct No. 2. Evensen updated his registration in July 2019.
In their candidate declarations, Evensen says he has been a city resident since May 2018, Erickson since 1959 (with “forever” scratched out) and Stroozas since December 2006. In APOC filings, Evensen, Erickson and Stroozas used post office boxes as their mailing addresses.
Homer City Code sets criteria for residency for candidates: voter registration within city limits and a 1-year residency requirement. According to the code, “a person is eligible for the office of City Council or the office of Mayor if the person is a voter of the City as prescribed by HCC 4.05.010 and has been a resident within the City for a period of one year immediately preceding the election day on which the person is a candidate.” For the Oct. 1, 2019, election, that would mean having lived within city limits on or before Sept. 30, 2018.
HCC 4.05.010 defines a voter as someone who “has been a resident of the municipality for 30 days immediately preceding the election” and “is registered to vote in State elections at a residence address within the municipality at least 30 days before the municipal election at which the person seeks to vote.”
Last year, that 30-day registration requirement stopped one candidate when Connor Schmidt attempted to mount a write-in campaign for city council in the October 2018 election. Schmidt had lived in the city for two years, but had neglected to change his voter registration in time.
On the issue of being registered to vote outside city limits within the past year, Jacobsen said, “I don’t know if that’s necessarily a qualifying or disqualifying factor.”
For example, someone could have moved to the city and established residency on or before Sept. 30, 2018, but might not have changed their residency right away. How residency is legally defined or determined would be a question for the city attorney, Jacobsen said.
Jacobsen said the city will follow city code 4.50.010 regarding contesting an election. Under that section, “the City Council shall order such investigative action as it deems appropriate.” If illegal or irregular election practices are alleged, “the City Council shall order an investigation to be made by the City Manager with the assistance of the Clerk and the Attorney,” the code says.
Certification of the election results is on the agenda for the Oct. 14 regular council meeting. Stroozas said he doesn’t think the council will be able to certify the election.
“We may declare the election null and void and call for a redo,” he said.
However, under the city’s conflict of interest rules, “No City official or the City Manager shall participate in any official action in which: 1. The person is the applicant, a party or has a substantial financial interest in the subject of the official action.” Stroozas could have a conflict of interest at the council level. Jacobsen said this question has been posed to the city attorney.