Sexton's Residency Status In Question

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Former mayoral candidate Jim White wants to know why candidate Diana Sexton is allowed to run for office, despite lingering questions about her residency.

"In my opinion, she is breaking the law," White said. "I don't want her to go to jail or anything, but I don't understand why she is being allowed to do this."

Sexton continues to maintain that she is a resident of Payson and has nothing to hide.

Questions of her residency status arose when Sexton was a candidate two years ago. Although she owns a home in Round Valley, she said in December that she spends four nights a week at what she called a home office behind her family's Beeline Cafe.

"That property is zoned commercial," White said. "In my opinion, that doesn't qualify as a home."

Now Sexton has another home on East Continental that she and her husband have been building.

"I'm legal," Sexton told the Roundup. "We spend four nights in town and then spend the weekends in Round Valley, which is what the law says. People are welcome to come and see where I live."

White's assertion is that Sexton did not receive an occupancy certificate until Jan. 5, nearly two months after she filled out her notarized affidavit of qualification for her candidacy, in which states she lives at the Continental address.

"In my opinion, that's a felony," White said.

White contacted town attorney Sam Streichman regarding the legality of Sexton's candidacy. Deputy town attorney Tim Wright replied.

"I have forwarded your letter ... challenging Diana Sexton's candidacy for mayor to the town clerk, Silvia Smith," Wright said in his letter. "As the town's elections officer, Ms. Smith is the appropriate person to address your concerns."

"I sent them a letter and all the records," White said. "This is a legal issue and he tells me the town clerk is the appropriate person?"

Smith responded.

"Please be advised that as the town's election officer, my responsibilities are ministerial," Smith said in her reply. "I do not have the authority to refuse to accept nominating petitions, or to refuse to place a candidate's name on the ballot, so long as the nominating paperwork is valid on its face. Questions regarding the validity of a nomination or the qualifications of a candidate are matters for the appropriate court to determine."

The Arizona state statutes say that in elections for a town office, the town attorney "may" enforce provisions through civil and criminal actions, meaning they are not obligated to take any action, even if White has a legitimate assertion that Sexton has broken the law.

According to the statutes, White did have 10 days to object to Sexton's inclusion on the ballot, but the deadline came before he could pursue anything.

Sexton still maintains that she is a legitimate candidate.

"The law requires me to spend four nights in town and I do that," Sexton said. "On the weekends, the grandkids come up and we stay at our homestead in Round Valley. You either like me for what I stand for -- and if you don't, you don't have to vote for me."

White's attorney, Mike Harper, said he doesn't agree with Sexton's definition of being legal. "I'm not sure that we agree with that," Harper said. "If you are going to be a town representative, you need to live in the town -- that's the issue."

Harper said they will be exploring what civil avenues are available to them.

"Any criminal charges would be filed by the state," Harper said. "They would decide that. We are evaluating what options we have on the civil side -- whether she is legally a resident for the purposes of holding that office."

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