In Galveston’s race for mayor, Don Mafrige claimed to have evidence that could disqualify one of his opponents, Jim Yarbrough. Mafrige said Yarbrough had claimed a homestead exemption on his ranch in Central Texas — and had not canceled that exemption until September.

Yarbrough said he was confident that he had met all the requirements for residency.

So, who’s right?

That will be up to a judge.

The Galveston City Charter requires that a candidate live in the city for at least a year before the election. It specifies that one of the tests for residency is the homestead exemption — at least in the sense that a candidate can’t claim a homestead outside the district he or she is running for. 

Yarbrough contends that, since homestead exemptions run year to year, any change made in 2013 would cover the whole year. He had no exemption as of Jan. 1, 2013, which is more than a year before the election.

The charter says that a person must not claim a homestead exemption on any property other than his residence. Yarbrough had no homestead exemption in 2013.

Mafrige’s complaint suggests that, in his reading of the charter, having a homestead exemption on file in another county as late as September violates the one-year rule. In his view, any candidate for mayor should have canceled a homestead exemption outside Galveston by May 10, 2013 — one year before the election.

What’s the process for getting a definitive answer?

That probably would involve a legal challenge from at least one of the candidates.

That might strike many people as unfair. But remember that in 2010, City Councilman Rusty Legg had to pay the legal costs of defending the election that put him in office. 

Legg won a close runoff against incumbent Tarris Woods, who sued, citing problems with the election. 

The city, though it was responsible for conducting the election, was not a party to the lawsuit. The legal action was between the candidates.

In the upcoming election, Yarbrough, a former county judge, is widely viewed as the front-runner. The legal challenge would have to come from one of his opponents.

If there is going to be a challenge, the public would be better served if it were filed sooner, rather than later. The worst possible scenario would be for the issue to be decided in court after the election.


At a glance

What the charter says

ARTICLE II. THE COUNCIL

Section 2. ualifications. At the time of election, each Councilmember shall be a qualified voter of the city of Galveston, and shall hold no other elective public office nor be an employee of the city or any agency of the city. Each councilmember elected to represent a district shall have been domiciled and shall have had his or her principal physical residence in such district for a period of not less than one (1) year immediately preceding the councilmember’s election. Each councilmember elected at large shall have been domiciled and shall have had his or her principal physical residence in the city for a period of not less than one (1) year immediately preceding the councilmember’s election. For the purposes of this section, a person must meet all of the following to meet the requirement for a “principal physical residence,” if applicable:

(a) The person must use the residence address for voter registration and driver’s license purposes;

(b) The person must use the residence address as the person’s home address on documents such as employment records, resumes, business cards, government forms, and loan applications;

(c) The person must not claim a homestead exemption on any property other than the residence.

If a councilmember shall cease to possess any of these qualifications, or shall be convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, the office of the councilmember shall immediately become vacant.

SOURCE: Galveston City Charter

Heber Taylor is editor of The Daily News.

(11) comments

Mike Leahy

I guess the thing that makes Mafridge the best candidate for mayor is he doesn't own a ranch somewhere that he might get confused as his homestead?

Does Mafridge have any issues that differentiate him from Yarborough, or is it just a question of who owns more than one house? Maybe big Jim has a horse on his ranch while Mafridge only has a dog and cat?

Oremus, let this not be the deciding issue of who endures the privilege of being our next mayor.

Rainy Brown

How would you feel if the situation was just the opposite and it was Mafridge instead of Yarbrough?

Richard Moore
Richard Moore

If I have read the information presented in the article correctly, it appears as though Mr. Yarbrough DID NOT receive the benefit of an exemption in 2013 regardless of when it was removed. State Law is clear that the exemptions are made on the basis of the Tax Year.

Don't really see where there is the basis of a big fuss over this - particularly when it would be up to a court to provide a "definitive" answer. NOTE - the Charter defines qualifications as being "...at the time of election...", so it will be difficult to have resolution of this non-problem in advance!

I really think that it is time to get down to real issues - particularly sustainable economic development - which I expect will be the focus of the GCDN candidates forum.

Bill Broussard

Richard: The fact is- all we know for sure is Jim canceled his exemption in September. You or I cannot say he didn't get the benefit of his exemption unless we see his tax filing. It could very well be he claimed 3/4 of the year as a homestead exemption.

RonShelby
Ron Shelby

Partner, that's not possible to get a prorated exemption in Texas.

Raymond Lewis

There you go again Mr. Moore. Making sense has little place in these forums!

Steve Fouga

Sorry to copy my post from another thread, but it apply here too:

Has Elizabeth Beeton weighed in yet? I wonder what her take is.

I guess it wouldn't be Galveston politics without a controversy. It'll be funny if Galveston's residency requirements don't meet state law. And then Mafrige will have exposed himself as petty to no avail.

The winner here is Beeton, as long as she stays silent. Yarbrough looks sneaky; Mafrige looks petty...

Mary Branum

What about T. Woods who owns several house in Galveston and, conveniently, names one as where he lives so he can run for that council position.
Everyone knows he live in Colony Park!
If I recall, last time he was on council he said he lived north of Broadway on 39th. Right - sort of boarded up and derelict!
Most Galveston Politicians are a joke.

GW Cornelius

I always say if you can't beat your opponent try to dig something up. However in this case the only thing digging did was make a hole. Time for Jimbo to be mayor and get something besides a dysfunctional council.

Steve Fouga


"A judge would have to rule on Yarbrough’s residency"

Um... I guess not.

shortnsassy

So, if you can't win on your own merit, you resort to digging up something on the competition? Pretty sad. At the same time, I understand about city charters and so forth. I know little about the homestead exemption but shouldn't this have been "caught" when Mr Yarbrough turned in his paperwork? Doesn't someone go over the paperwork to be sure everything is in order? Guess I'm living in my own little dream world expecting this would be done. Or should it have been done and was "overlooked" for a reason? We all know (or should) that when it comes to politics, the "rules" sometimes change a bit. Do your research before voting for anyone.

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