Papers served challenging Martin’s residency

Papers served challenging Martin’s residencyScott Leahy confronts Wallace Martin at a previous Ridgecrest City Council meeting. — Photo by Laura Austin

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By BRIAN COSNER, News Review Staff Writer

Ever since Councilmember Wallace Martin’s initial run for the Ridgecrest City Council, opponents have challenged whether or not he actually resides within Ridgecrest city limits and what that may mean for his eligibility to hold office. These challenges have ranged from public accusations during council meetings to requests that the Kern County District Attorney’s Office investigate.

Earlier this week, former council hopeful Scott Leahy announced he had built a legal case against Martin and is looking to the California Attorney General to either either present a quo warranto suit against Martin or allow Leahy to sue.

A quo warranto suit in this case would be legal action requiring an elected official to prove his or her eligibility to hold office.

In an interview with Leahy, he confirmed that his attorney – William Bruce of Klein DeNatale Goldner in Bakersfield – served papers to Martin at his primary address on Felspar Avenue, just outside of the city limits.

Martin reportedly has a property on Lee Avenue, one he began renting when he began his run for the council in 2016. He has also since purchased a duplex on California Street. Both properties are within city limits.

Leahy also ran for council in 2016 and was fewer than 100 votes behind Martin to claim the second open seat, the first of which was won by Councilmember Lindsey Stephens. Leahy and Martin began butting heads over the proposed Timbisha Shoshone casino and entertainment complex project, which Leahy has lobbied for and Martin opposes.

While the legal standard for residency can be difficult to define, the election code specifies that while a person can have more than one residence – a fixed habitation where he or she may not have the intention of remaining — residency for voting purposes means a person’s singular “domicile,” where the person intends to return after any given absence.

Martin has previously said that he divides his time between his city and county residences and has always adhered to the candidacy requirements.

But Leahy said a report from Bakersfield private investigator Alvin Narcisco discloses that the investigator observed over the course of a week that Martin traveled back and forth between his Felspar address and job on base while spending no meaningful time at his Ridgecrest addresses.

Leahy told the News Review that the PI report and other documents would be available only through his attorney. At press time Bruce was not available to provide the requested documentation.

Leahy claims that Martin has been lying about his residency ever since he was appointed to the Planning Commission prior to being elected to the council.

“The address on Lee, which I believe is a relative but I don’t know, is where he originally said he was living,” said Leahy. “He first took a seat on the Planning Commission and that’s the address he gave – somebody else’s house on Lee [Avenue].”

“My concern for the city is that this has been an open secret in this town – that Wallace Martin doesn’t live in the city,” said Leahy. “He did not move into town at the time he said he moved into town. I don’t blame him, I wouldn’t go over to some duplex when I have a perfectly good house where my wife lives out in the county. But the city needs to get to the bottom of this. This is something that needs to be addressed here.”

In regard to who was paying for the investigator and legal counsel, Leahy said, “I’m not going to address questions about my finances or how I’m paying for this.” He did not disclose a cost for these services.

But he also said he wasn’t suing for money. “The remedy I seek is for him to be removed from office or for him to resign the seat,” said Leahy. “If it’s established that Wallace Martin is in fact not a resident of Ridgecrest, he would only be liable for any money he’s received from the city while on council.”

Leahy said that now that he has presented his case to the attorney general and Martin had been served papers, it is up to the court to make a decision.

“His wife lives out in the county. It doesn’t take a genius to know he’s living out there. He’s basically lied to the city of Ridgecrest for two years, and I don’t know where he gets the idea that he can do that with impunity,” said Leahy.

“The attorney general will look at what we’ve got; he’ll look at what Wallace Martin has. It may be that Wallace Martin has got evidence and that I’m wrong. But in the opinion of my attorney and in my opinion, [what he’s doing] isn’t legal.”

The News Review contacted Martin for a response to Leahy’s allegations. He said the residency “nonissue” was worn out and nothing but a “trick from a pro-casino spokesman.” He declined to comment further.

Story First Published: 2018-11-02