By Charlotte Caldwell
[email protected]

PORT JEFFERSON — The Port Jefferson Village Council voted to keep Councilmember Jamie Long on the council after questions about his residency on April 1.

At previous meetings, the council discussed whether Long is a resident of the village because he’s a truck driver and sleeps while he travels, and the property he owns in Port Jefferson does not have a home on it currently. Long is planning on building a house on the property in the next few months.

The council decided to wait to make a decision on whether to vacate the seat until the village solicitor, William Zimmerman Jr., could come to the meeting in person. Zimmerman attended the April 1 meeting and discussed his findings with the council. He reviewed Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 731.12 and 3503.02. Zimmerman also discussed the issue with another village solicitor, who cited the same parts of the ORC.

731.12 states, “Each member of the legislative authority of a village shall have resided in the village one year immediately preceding the member’s election, and shall be an elector of the village,” and “Any member who ceases to possess any of such qualifications or who removes from the village shall forfeit the member’s office.”

3503.02 states, “That place shall be considered the residence of a person in which the person’s habitation is fixed and to which, whenever the person is absent, the person has the intention of returning,” and “If a person does not have a fixed place of habitation, but has a shelter or other location at which the person has been a consistent or regular inhabitant and to which the person has the intention of returning, that shelter or other location shall be deemed the person’s residence for the purpose of registering to vote.”

“I would suggest, as your legal advisor, that all of you need to have residences in the village. You can’t just own property. You have to lay your head there, sleep there, that’s where you stay. If that is not the case, I would suggest that whoever that individual is technically should not be a member of the legislative body,” Zimmerman said.

When it was brought up that the Board of Elections said residency is just where mail is delivered, Zimmerman said, “The Board of Elections has no power to state what residency is. The Ohio Revised Code states what residency is.”

Councilmember Loretta Cook said she wanted Long to resign based on the information Zimmerman presented.

After more conversation between Cook and Long, Cook said, “I quit,” and “this is why people don’t want to be here,” and left the meeting.

The rest of the council members voted, with three voting to keep Long on, one abstaining, and one voting no. Zimmerman said Long’s yes vote shouldn’t count due to a conflict of interest, so they considered the rest of the votes a tie. Mayor Steve Butterfield broke the tie by voting to keep Long on.

Butterfield asked Zimmerman if the council could add extra stipulations to the ones addressed in the ORC about residency, and Zimmerman said it would be allowed as long as it didn’t go against the ORC.

In other business, the council:

• Discussed the two new part-time police officers: James Beltz, from Lima, and Lauren Kilburn, from Troy. Beltz has previous law enforcement experience with Ada, Spencerville, and Wapakoneta police departments. Kilburn also works part-time for the Jackson Center Police Department;

• Removed two properties from the street light assessment because they are vacant and no one has come forth to claim the land;

• Approved a quote from Ratermann Construction for $35,002.01 to remodel and make the doorways bigger for the men’s and women’s restrooms in the community building where elections are held. The village is about $5,000 short of being able to pay the quote and will have to get a loan.

The next council meeting will be held on May 6 at 7 p.m.