GALVESTON — Galveston mayoral candidate Don Mafrige says he is researching the residency history of one his opponents, Jim Yarbrough, and could potentially challenge Yarbrough’s placement on May’s ballot.
In a phone interview Saturday, Mafrige claimed to have evidence that Yarbrough had claimed a homestead exemption outside of Galveston County as recently as September 2013.
Such an exemption would appear to run afoul of the city charter’s requirement of council candidates. The charter’s rules require that council members have a “principal physical residence” in the city for at least one year before being elected.
“I think there’s a question there that needs to be explored to find out what, in fact, was his residence in a point in time, if, in fact, his residence was here in Galveston for a year, which is a requirement of our charter,” Mafrige said. “We’re trying to make a determination based on the information that we have.”
Mafrige declined to elaborate on how Yarbrough’s residency was brought to his attention, only saying that “multiple people” had brought the topic to his attention since Yarbrough announced his candidacy in October.
Yarbrough on Saturday denied Mafriges’ claim, but acknowledged that his last three years had involved a number of changes in address and living situations.
“I’m convinced that I’m certainly eligible to run and meet all the qualifications,” Yarbrough said. “I have always lived in Galveston, except for the time that I went to the University of Texas.”
Yarbrough said he sold a town house he was living in Galveston in late 2011, and for a time leased a property in the Evia subdivision on 99th Street. He and his wife bought a house on Broadway in Galveston last summer, which they moved into in September.
Yarbrough said he claimed a homestead in Fayette County during 2012, when he owned no other home, but removed it in 2013, as he began contemplating a run for office.
According to the Fayette County central appraisal district’s online records, Yarbrough did claim an exemption on a home outside La Grange in 2012. Yarbrough called it his ranch. That exemption appears to have been removed in 2013.
Similarly, The Galveston County appraisal district’s online records indicate the home that Yarbrough now claims as a residence received a homestead exemption in 2013.
On the application he filed to be placed on the May ballot, Yarbrough wrote that he had been a continuous resident of Galveston of 57 years and 11 months, his entire life.
Mafrige declined Saturday to share what documentation he had with The Daily News. He said he was still gathering information that could lead him issuing a formal challenge. Mafrige said he was still waiting on responses from several public records requests before making any final decision.
“We’re trying to get a grip on it,” Mafrige said. “I don’t have answers. But I think we get information to show where he lived at points in time, that’s what we’re trying to do.”
In May 2012, Galveston voters overwhelmingly passed a charter amendment creating stricter residency rules for the city’s elected and appointed officials.
The rules have led to members of some city boards being asked to resign because they do not meet the new requirements, and others being asked to affirm that they meet the requirements.
Last week, in response to an unrelated question about residency requirements, city secretary Janelle Williams said she does not vet candidates on whether the information they submit to the city is true, but said the ballot application is a legal document — signed by a notary — swearing that all the information is “true and correct.”
Contact reporter John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or email@example.com.