Dallas BOE spar whether member lives in her district

Published 9:38 pm Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Questions surrounding where a Dallas County Board of Education member lives have led the board to ask for an investigation by the district attorney’s office.

The board voted on a resolution last Thursday during a called meeting asking the district attorney’s office to investigate if Carolyn Bates, who represents District 3, is in compliance with a residency requirement.

Alabama law requires members of county school boards to live in the district they are elected to serve. The Code of Alabama 1975, Section 16-8-1 (b) states, “whenever a member of a county board of education moves his or her domicile from the district he or she represents, he or she shall cease to be a member of the county board of education, and a vacancy shall occur.”

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Bates’ residency came into question after findings from an audit by the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts were released to the board.

According to audit findings, on Dec. 30, 2015, “the board member representing Dallas County Board of Education’s School District 3 applied for and was subsequently granted a homestead exemption for residential property which is located in School District 4.”

“The DCBOE, by majority vote, has accepted the findings of the examiners to the extent that it believes said board member is not compliant with state residency requirements for county board members,” the resolution reads.

According to the Dallas County Tax Assessor’s Office, a homestead exemption is a tax discount. Someone may eligible for the exemption if they own a single-family owner-occupied dwelling, according to the Alabama Department of Revenue.

“I live in my district. They know it,” Bates said. “I own lots of property in Dallas County, all over Dallas County, and that’s the problem. They’re looking at what I own. That’s their problem and trying to determine where I lay my head.”

Bates declined Tuesday to give her current address and the address she used to qualify to run for office.

“They have the right to file anything they want to file as long as they’ve got evidence to back it up,” she said.

Bates said the questions about her residency are due to an error when she filed a homestead exemption for a family member that lives in District 4.

“I filed a tax exemption, yes I did, by mistake and error. I’ve taken care of that, so there is no more issue,” she said.

The resolution passed by the board says otherwise.

“In the course of addressing the issue of the board member’s residency, additional information has come to light that has caused the DCBOE to further question whether the board member indeed resides in the district she represents,” the resolution reads.

The resolution also asks for the district attorney’s office to “commence a quo warranto action,” which would require Bates to prove by what authority she holds the District 3 position.

Christmas Green-Williams, the school board’s attorney, said the next step will be for the district attorney’s office to investigate the matter.

Bates will continue to serve on the board unless action is taken through the court system.