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Election Commission postpones challenges to residency claims

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By Brian Garner

The Chester County Election Commission met recently to consider challenges to the residencies of Chester County School Board member Maggie James and elector the Rev. Bill Stringfellow. Because the parties did not receive proper notice that their claims to residency were being challenged, the hearing was postponed. The commission will meet again to consider these challenges at 1 p.m. on July 8.

Commission Chair Bill Marion said the commission only has the right to hear the elector protest for the Rev. Stringfellow.

“No matter what this board would decide, we would only be establishing the residency of either candidate. If it was decided against Mrs. James, it would be up to the Chester County School Board to deal with the decision of this board as to whether she was in the wrong district or not,” Marion said.

Marion read a statement in which he said he was recusing himself from the proceedings because Maggie James, one of the sitting board members who was being challenged, had contacted Attorney Everett Stubbs, a member in the Gaston, Marion and Stubbs law firm.

“I am recusing myself…in this matter…because Mrs. James contacted Everett Stubbs seeking legal advice on this matter. Although I did not speak with Mr. Stubbs concerning this hearing and matter other than to tell him we had a conflict of interest, Mrs. James has raised the possibility of a conflict of interest and therefore out of an abundance of caution, I am recusing myself from this hearing…”

Marion also recused himself from the hearing regarding Rev. Stringfellow’s residency as well, because he did not know what was discussed by James and Stubbs when she sought legal advice.

Commission Vice Chair Luke Cameron presided for the rest of the short meeting.

The commission then went into executive session to obtain legal advice from county Attorney Joanie Winters concerning the residency challenges.

Once they returned into open session, Cameron stated because the two parties – Stringfellow and James – had not been properly notified of the hearing dealing with the challenges to their residency, the hearing will be rescheduled. Parties in a residency challenge are supposed to receive notice of the hearing 10 days prior to the hearing being held. Parties were served with written notices of the new hearing date and time.

Following the hearing, Attorney Spiro Poulos representing Maggie James and Attorney LaJessica Stringfellow representing Rev. Bill Stringfellow declined comment.

The challenges to the residency claims of both Maggie James and Rev. Stringfellow were brought by citizen Steve Jackson. Jackson ran an unsuccessful challenge for the District 5 Chester County School Board seat in the May 2019 special election. Jackson was represented by Attorney Kathleen McDaniel. Jackson did not consent to the continuance, but McDaniel said if the notice of the hearing was not properly served to the other parties, then “We can’t move forward.”

Jackson said he brought the two challenges because when he was running for the school board, Jackson promised his potential constituents he would act as a one-man watchdog for their interests for a period of 10 years, win, lose or draw in his election.

“I’ve heard rumblings in Chester County for years that if someone wants to run for something, a candidate just has to say they live somewhere, or they’re going to move somewhere, and they can run. You can’t do that. It just drives me crazy, so I started researching it, and the more I researched, the more that I realized that was wrong,” said Jackson.

“We want to make sure that this hearing, once it is done, it is done right and it will be over, because we’re going to win. We are on the side of right, and right is going to win in Chester County,” Jackson said.