City-County councilor to step down over residence question

Patrice Abduallah
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Updated: .

Mary Milz/13 Investigates

Indianapolis - A Democratic City-County councilor will voluntarily step down from his position amid concerns over his residence.

Council member Patrice Abduallah represents the 15th district of Indianapolis, which is in the city's near west side. He lives on the western edge of the district on Warman Avenue but his house is on the west side of the street - in the 14th district.

It's a new wrinkle for the City-County Council. The city's own site shows that Abduallah, a Democrat, is represented by a Republican council member.

Abduallah, a first-time councilor, is expected to announce his resignation Thursday at a noon press conference by county Democrats. He says he was living in his mother's house while his own home underwent renovations. However, the law is clear in stating that all council members must live in the district they represent.

County Republicans did not field a candidate for District 15. Democrats will hold a caucus to determine Abduallah's replacement.

Technically, Abduallah lives in District 14, which is represented by Republican Marilyn Pfisterer, according to candidate forms he signed in January. They show his residence at 1144 N. Warman.

Warman is actually the dividing line between the two districts. Abduallah finds himself living on the wrong side of the street. He's actually just 25 feet from living in the right district.

"He would have to be on the east side of Warman to be in 15," said Andy Mallen, election administrator. Mallen says it's all news to him and the county election board.

"In this case the board has not received any challenge at all and in fact, the board's ability to hear such challenges ended in March," said Mallen.

But Abduallah's residency was an issue during the last council meeting when protesters disrupted the mayor's budget address, upset over the income tax hike.

As we talked to Mallen about Abduallah, the councilor walked in, concerned. "I'm devastated by the whole revelation but I don't want to talk about it," he said, adding that he would attempt to straighten things out and his intention to run again in the same district.

While Abduallah declined further comment, documents show he lived on Sheffield when he first ran, which is in district 15. Construction work on that home was stopped by the city for violating building codes.

City attorney's statement

Also in question is the validity of the votes Abduallah made, including the one to raise the county income tax. On Thursday, city attorney Kobi Wright issued the following statement:

"In light of the resignation of Councilor Abdullah, some have raised questions regarding the validity of his official actions while serving on the Council. It is the opinion of the Office of Corporation Counsel that official actions taken by Councilor Abdullah prior to his resignation were valid, because Indiana case law clearly provides that votes taken by elected officials acting in an apparent official capacity are valid even if that official's election was void.

A clear expression of that case law comes from the following quoted passage from a decision of the Indiana Court of Appeals. 'A person whose election is irregular and void because he is ineligible is nevertheless an officer, de facto, if he discharges the duties of his office under the color of an election.' Carty v. State of Indiana, 421 N.E.2d 1151 (Ind. App. 1981) (emphasis added). The Carty case went on to hold that '[f]or the protection of the public who deal with him, the acts of a de facto officer are as valid' as an officer properly qualified by law.

In 2000, the Indiana Court of Appeals, citing its earlier decision in the Carty case, also determined that a city commission acted under the color of law as de facto officials when taking a vote, such that its vote would stand even if the commissioners did not meet legal residency requirements. See Sullivan v. City of Evansville, 728 N.E.2d 182 (Ind. App. 2000)."