Bertie elections board: Sheriff hopeful not county resident
By Thadd White
Monday, April 23, 2018
WINDSOR — The Bertie County Board of Elections has ruled a sheriff’s candidate ineligible to run in the May 8 primary, determining he is not a county resident because of a residence he still maintains in another county.
The four-member elections board voted 3-1 last week to uphold a Bertie voter’s challenge of Adrian Bowen’s residency following a hearing.
Voting to uphold voter Vivian Clark’s challenge were Board of Elections Chairman Glenwood Mitchell, Vice Chairwoman Carol Woodard and board member James Lee.
Disagreeing with the board majority and believing Bowen met the burden of proof for establishing residency in Bertie was board member James Perry.
In her challenge of Bowen’s residency, Clark filed an affidavit noting that, while Bowen had changed his home address to 110 East Robin Lane in Windsor, he still owns a home in Elizabeth City at 504 Troy Drive. The affidavit also claimed that Bowen’s wife and daughter still reside in Pasquotank County.
At last week’s hearing, Bertie Board of Elections Attorney Lloyd Smith advised the board that under state law the burden of proving residency in Bertie would fall to Bowen.
Specifically, Bowen had to meet three requirements to prove residency, Smith said. They included actual abandonment of his previous domicile without an intent to return to it; that he had acquired a new domicile in Bertie; and that he had made his new domicile in the county a permanent residence.
Prior to responding to questions from board members, Bowen presented 106 items of documentation which he said proves he lives in Bertie. The items included his voter registration card and a driver's license, which lists his address as East Robin Lane, Windsor.
Bowen also presented an affidavit from his wife, Kia Bowen, in which she stated she lives in Pasquotank County but her husband resides in Bertie. Kia Bowen’s affidavit also claimed she spends weekends in Bertie, and that her husband spends two or three nights each week in Pasquotank County. She also claimed her family plans to join her husband in Windsor at the end of the current school year.
Adrian Bowen also presented tax documents and other receipts listing the Windsor address.
After he was sworn in, Bowen responded to a number of questions from board members.
Lee asked Bowen what his plan is for the home he owns in Elizabeth City. Bowen replied that he plans to rent it once his wife and daughter join him in Bertie.
Woodard asked how many nights a week Bowen spends in Windsor, to which he replied three to four. He said he spends some nights in Elizabeth City; other nights he spends working.
Perry asked Bowen if his wife and daughter intend to join him in Bertie, and Bowen responded that they do.
Perry also asked Bowen if the board found he was an eligible candidate, but then he lost the election, would he remain in Bertie. Bowen said he would.
Mitchell asked Bowen why he had used a check listing an Elizabeth City address to pay his filing fee. Bowen responded that it was an oversight.
Paul Faison Winborne, an attorney representing Clark at the hearing, then questioned Bowen. He asked Bowen if the house he and his wife own in Elizabeth City is roughly a third larger than the one in Windsor.
Bowen replied that he doesn’t believe it is. He said tax records indicating the house’s square footage are mistaken.
Winborne also asked Bowen if he owns a business, Mr. B's Cleaning, and whether it’s listed as having a location in Elizabeth City.
Bowen responded that it is, but he works across the region.
Winborne also asked Bowen if the address on the check he used to pay his filing fee was in Elizabeth City. After Bowen replied that it was, Winborne asked if Bowen if the address on the checking account had been changed in the past week. Bowen responded that it had been.
Winborne told the elections board that the evidence presented made clear Bowen was not a resident of Bertie by last November, which state law required him to be, to run for sheriff of the county.
In his closing statement to the board, Bowen said he’s a resident of Bertie County and had been since April 2016. He noted he voted in the 2016 presidential election in Bertie, which he said he was only able to do because he was a county resident.
"I've never been anywhere where my wife and child have to move here at the same time I do," he added.
Once the board began its deliberations, Lee said he was stuck on the fact that, under the law, Bowen was supposed to abandon his previous domicile but still spent several nights a week there. Perry and Woodward also expressed concerns about the abandonment-of-domicile issue.
Following the board’s decision ruling him ineligible to run for Bertie sheriff, Bowen said he plans to appeal.