Residents challenge Horton's 4th Ward residency
By Jon Hawley
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Two Elizabeth City residents are challenging City Councilor Darius Horton’s claim that he lives in the 4th Ward.
On Tuesday, Jackie Latson and Joan Ellis filed a residency challenge against Horton with the Pasquotank County Board of Elections. If the challenge is successful, Horton would have to give up his council seat.
State law provides the county Board of Elections hold a preliminary hearing on Latson and Ellis’ challenge to determine if there's probable cause to believe Horton is no longer a Fourth Ward resident. No hearing has been set, Elections Director Kelli Price said midday Tuesday.
If the elections board finds probable cause to believe the challenge has merit, the board would then hold a hearing to consider evidence for and against Horton's residency. If the board then determines Horton isn't a Fourth Ward resident, he would no longer be eligible to hold office and the city would have to hold a special election to replace him.
Latson foreshadowed her residency challenge Monday night, when, speaking during the public comments section of a city council meeting, said she said Fourth Ward residents haven't seen any signs Horton is still living at his address of record: 1624 Peartree Road
“Several Fourth Ward residents are totally convinced that one of our Fourth Ward councilmen does not actually live at his publicly published residence, that being 1624 Peartree Road,” Latson said.
The home has appeared vacant for months, she said later. She speculated Horton may be living in Hertford, where he operates a funeral home business.
Latson also claimed Horton is neglecting Fourth Ward residents. He doesn't provide regular community updates or hold community meetings, something he said he would do after he was first elected in 2013, she said.
Horton also is not engaging with his constituents, Latson claimed, adding she believes he also isn’t attending enough city council meetings.
Fourth Ward residents are tired of being under-served, she said.
“We will no longer accept the fact that our tax dollars are being wasted to pay for jobs not being done,” she said.
In brief remarks Monday, Horton said he had moved from Peartree Road but hadn't updated his residency information with the city. After the meeting, he provided his new address to the city as 1203 Herrington Road, which city staff confirmed Tuesday is also in the Fourth Ward.
Horton declined Tuesday to say how long he's resided on Herrington Road, but said he's maintained his Fourth Ward residency since getting elected. He also said his driver's license shows his residency as 1203 Herrington Road, and he gets his mail delivered there.
Horton rejected Latson's residency challenge as a “political joke.”
“This is my first New Year's laugh,” he said.
Horton also said he doesn't attend Latson's meetings of the Fourth Ward Quality of Life Community Organization because he claims the group isn't representative of the ward overall.
Horton also said he's speaking with his lawyer about Latson's challenge, and, if he has grounds to sue her for defamation, he will consider doing so.
Asked how he might try to mend his relationship with Latson and her Fourth Ward group, who are still his constituents, Horton said, “I have no desire to.”
Both Horton and Latson said they had not contacted the other before the residency challenge. Latson also said she doesn’t accept Horton's word alone that he has moved to another address in the 4th Ward.
Latson also said she'd consider the residency challenge successful even if the board of elections rules Horton is still a Fourth Ward resident. The process will still help prove his residency and hold him accountable to constituents, she said.
Ellis could not be reached for comment Tuesday.