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Dearing councilman faces questions about residency

By his own admission, Dearing Town Councilman Allen Axon is a man with a couple of homes.

There's the house he rents from his father on Railroad Street in downtown Dearing. Then there's his wife's house in Stapleton.

And it's the Stapleton residence that has him - and town officials - fielding questions about his qualifications for the town council.

During Monday night's Town Council Meeting, Dearing Mayor Sean Kelley said the McDuffie County Board of Elections Superintendent Phyllis Wheeler held a meeting with him addressing questions she had received "from several people" about Mr. Axon living in Stapleton.

Ms. Wheeler said she sent Mayor Kelley to the town's attorney, Bob Knox, to confirm Mr. Axon's residency qualification.

"This town council has spent the last money we are going to spend on it," Mayor Sean Kelley said during Monday night's town council meeting. "If you want to pursue it, then do it yourself. ... We had to pay three to four hours worth of attorney fees, and that was money I could've spent pursuing grants and other business. ... As far as I'm concerned, it's over, and he's legal."

Ms. Wheeler said she received a letter from Mr. Knox citing other cases with the same circumstances that proved the residency was legal. She mailed a letter to Mayor Kelley stating that she has "no further issues with it." Ms. Wheeler did add that if someone wanted to challenge the residency qualification, they should check to see if homestead exemptions have been filed in Mr. Axon's name.

"I really don't have anywhere else to go with it," she said. "Homestead exemptions really determine your residency. I really don't have time to go through all that investigating. It's up to someone else to if they want to challenge the fact. The attorney is satisfied that he meets the requirements, so I'm going to leave it at that."

A phone call by The Mirror to the McDuffie County Tax Assessor's office revealed there are no homestead exemptions in Allen Axon's name. A message left with the Jefferson County tax assessor's office was not returned before the print deadline. Mr. Axon's wife, Olly, said any claims filed on their house in that county are in her name.

Mr. Axon expressed confusion after the meeting as to why anyone would want to complain about him. He said he does not own a house anywhere, but rents a home from his father on Railroad Street behind their business, Axon's Minimart in Dearing. Mr. Axon said he resides at the Railroad Street house "on weekdays," and his wife owns the house in Stapleton and resides there with their young daughter, Elizabeth.

Mrs. Axon said in a telephone interview from her home in Stapleton that her husband "spends very little time here with his family so that he can be up there with his family and business."

"Anything down here is me. Elizabeth and I do live here. ... I own it by myself. ... If they have a problem with that, I'll be glad to talk to them," she said.

Mayor Kelley and Mrs. Axon said they are angry about the complaints. Mrs. Axon said it would be different if her husband was not doing a good job, or if he was being compensated for his work.

Mayor Kelley said Mr. Axon is a volunteer with the fire department, keeps up the lawn mowers and oversees the grounds maintenance for the town, trims and hauls away the tree limbs from the Town Hall property and hangs the town's Christmas lights and takes them down every year.

"I don't believe that the people who are complaining about him would do that. They don't put into their community what all he does... I am not saying this just because he is my husband. He wants Dearing to grow and prosper, not be held back by small mindedness," Mrs. Axon said.

Web posted on Thursday, May 17, 2007

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