By charter, members of the Mansfield City Council must reside within the city limits, not only during their time of service but for at least 12 months before taking office.
That’s not unusual, as most municipalities and other governmental jurisdictions have similar rules regarding elected (and sometimes appointed) officials.
The residency issue is front and center in Mansfield today because an anonymous letter received at City Hall earlier this month questioned Councilwoman Wendy Burgess’ home address.
The letter included a deed signed by Burgess and her husband March 20 for property in Rendon. Owning property outside the city is not a violation of the charter or any other law; it’s living outside the city limits that would be a problem for a sitting council member.
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Burgess insisted at Monday’s council meeting that she has always lived in Mansfield, while acknowledging that she has owned and sold several homes.
The property in Rendon, she said, was purchased as a place to have cattle, horses and ducks for her daughter, who is interested in veterinary medicine.
This is a touchy situation, but it should be resolved without too much difficulty. An investigation of property records (purchases and sales), including homestead exemptions, would be a good place to start.
The council voted to hire an investigator and advising attorney to conduct an inquiry, which could cost between $10,000 and $30,000.
It is the council’s responsibility to determine the eligibility of its members, and it is prudent to bring in outside assistance.
Mayor David Cook said he wants “an open and transparent process.” That is how it should be.
If Burgess is indeed a legal resident of the city, then apologies should be made for any inconvenience or embarrassment caused by the inquiry. The city could then move on with its important business.
If the findings support allegations that Burgess does not reside in the city limits, the council would have to consider expelling her.