Getting the Story Straight [Updated]

Why is this so difficult?

Here are some accounts of the explanations from the campaign of Councilman-elect Mathieu Eugene about when he moved into the district that just elected him.

His campaign spokesman told me shortly after his election that he had signed a lease at an address in his district at the beginning of February.

Then this, from Dave Seifman in the Post:

Eugene’s campaign manager, Joe Placide, said Eugene had signed a lease for an apartment in the 40th District on Feb. 1 – nearly three weeks before the results of the election were in.

And a series of odd no-comments to Errol Louis:

There’s no question that Eugene, the first Haitian-born candidate elected to the Council, was living in Canarsie – miles south of the 40th Council District in Flatbush – during his campaign for the office.

But listen to how the state’s second-highest court, the Appellate Division, resolved a similar case in 1993 called Clark vs. McCoy, a fight over whether a candidate running for City Council in Queens was required under the Public Officers Law to live in the district at the time she submitted nominating petitions.

“There is no requirement that a candidate be a resident of the district at the time of the filing of the petition,” the court ruled. “The only requirement is that the candidate be a resident at the time of the election.”

That seems clear enough – but it means that, unless he went apartment hunting on Election Day, Eugene wasn’t a resident when voters put him in. And at least one election lawyer with no stake in the race has suggested to me that Eugene might not be eligible to serve in the Council because he didn’t meet the legal requirement.

Steve Richman, the general counsel for the city Board of Elections, ducked my question on the subject, saying through a spokeswoman that issues of residency get handled by the City Council. City Council staffers said nobody had raised the issue and promised to look into it – but never got back to me.

Eugene himself told me he’s scheduled to be sworn in at City Hall today at 2 p.m. and declined to talk about his residency plans. His attorney Paul Wooten said Eugene had at least 10 days to get settled in the district, since that’s how long it takes for the Board of Elections to certify vote results.”

And then this, from today’s New York Sun:

“I’ve been sleeping there for the month of February,” Dr. Eugene said. He said he did not recall the exact date he moved to a three-bedroom apartment on Argyle Road in central Brooklyn’s District 40, which he was elected to represent in a special election on February. 20.

I called Placide today to see if I could get straight answers to what should be the easily resolvable questions of whether he was a resident at the time of the election, whether he lives there now and why Eugene hasn’t simply said so, one way or another, from the start.

He referred the inquiry to campaign consultant Scott Levenson. I left Levenson a message earlier today. I still haven’t heard back. Levenson just called to say he’s in his office and will speak.

UPDATE: Levenson said he’s seen “a lease whose term began February 1 for 40-46 Argyle Road. I’ve seen a check written to the landlord dated February 1. Dr. Eugene very clearly said he began sleeping there.”

Asked why his candidate didn’t change his registration to reflect his new address, Levenson said, “He was in the middle of an election” and that “he was in transition.”

Levenson disputed the notion that the earlier comments by Placide and Wooten were contradictory. “They’re all consistent,” he added, “You speak to 10 lawyers and you get 12 opinions” about the residency requirement. “But in the City Council, its always been the day that you’re sworn in.” That won’t happen until the votes are certified, he said.

– Azi Paybarah