D.S. investigates candidate eligibility

A dispute over the eligibility of a candidate running for a Dripping Springs City Council seat has prompted an independent investigation into the matter.

On April 9, Dripping Springs resident Mark Key addressed city leaders during public comment on the eligibility of candidate Geoffrey Tahuahua, who is running for the Place 5 city council race. At the heart of the controversy is where Tahuaha lives.

Tahuahua listed his residence in the Founders Ridge subdivision, which is within city limits, in his candidate filing. According to the Texas Election Code, a resident on the ballot must reside at a home in the corporate city limits of the city council they’re running for six months prior to the filing deadline. The filing deadline for the May 4 election was Feb. 15.

Tahuahua’s voter registration lists his address in the Belterra subdivision, which is not within the city limits. According to a Hays Central Appraisal District (CAD) search, Tuhuahua’s Founders Ridge home was deeded to him on Sept. 14, 2018. It is unknown at this time exactly how long Tahuahua had been living at his new address.

Key said the dispute could be a misunderstanding, adding that Tahuahua has not proven to the city he is eligible to run.

Tahuahua, however, said in an emailed statement he met “all legal requirements to run” in the election, including the required time of residency as defined by state law. Tahuahua said he purchased his home in Founders Ridge in January 2018 and that he “received confirmation” of meeting legal requirements “long ago.”

Tahuahua cited a section of the Texas Election Code, as well as case law, that defines residency to include a person acquiring a residence in a place that is not for temporary purposes and that they intend to make that permananent home. Tahuahua said it is “more than apparent” that his and his wife’s intent to reside in the city began when they purchased their Founders Ridge home. Tahuahua said one can “only conclude” the he is eligible on the ballot because he purchased and built a home that he now lives in.

“These rumors are nothing more than distractions set in motion by people who don’t know the law and have frequently sought to divide our community,” Tahuahua said in the statement. “As someone who works in public policy and politics, I’m no stranger to these kinds of word games.”

The potential conflict was first investigated by Dripping Springs city staff in an email chain with City Secretary Andrea Cunningham and Tahuahua.

Cunningham said in the email more information was needed “to verify residency status in the corporate city limits.”

Tahuahua said residency cannot be determined solely by looking at voter registration, affirming he is eligible to run based on his application.

City Attorney Laura Mueller said April 9 the city can look into the matter on the basis of what is stated on the application or if a public record conclusively establishes otherwise.

“In this case, we did not have a public record establishing this individual did not live in Dripping Springs,” Mueller said.

But Key said Tahuahua has not provided evidence he has lived in the city for one year as his application states. More specifically, the public documents associated with the property seem to prove otherwise, Key said.

“It is quite possible that this is all a misunderstanding and Mr. Tahuahua has an abundance of documents that prove he lived inside the corporate city limits of Dripping Springs for one year before his application was submitted,” Key said. “All I’m asking is that he makes them available to the public.”

Tahuahua said the accusations are a distraction from the election.

“What we should be focusing on is the future of Dripping Springs,” Tahuahua said. “I’m the only candidate in this race with substantial experience in municipal planning, budgeting, and solving problems at the local level. These are skills our community desperately needs as we continue to grow.”

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