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Hillsdale’s city hall./Wikipedia

After the con­tro­versial Ward 1 Hillsdale City Council election last year, Dennis Wain­scott, the can­didate who received the second-highest amount of votes, filed a quo war­ranto appli­cation for a com­plaint, chal­lenging the validity of the election. His appli­cation was denied by Judge Archie Brown of the First Circuit on Monday.

Quo war­ranto is a type of legal action that chal­lenges whether or not a person has the legal right to hold the public office they occupy, according to Cornell University’s legal dic­tionary.

Con­tro­versy arose when Peter Jen­nings, a Ward 1 city council can­didate at the time, was found to have failed to meet the city’s res­i­dency requirement for holding a public office. The res­i­dency requirement stip­u­lates that only people who have lived within city limits for three years are eli­gible to run for city council. Jen­nings’ election win was con­firmed by a recount requested by Wain­scott in December.

On Dec. 17, city council voided Jen­nings’ claim to his seat and scheduled a special election for Aug. 6, 2019 in order to fill the empty seat. Brown deter­mined the council’s action was con­sistent with the Hillsdale City Charter, and deter­mined there was no legal basis for Wainscott’s request for the runner-up to be awarded the seat.

“I was sur­prised by what was brought forth in the paperwork and some of what was said because it was not true,” Wain­scott said. “I didn’t even have a chance to talk to the judge.”

Wain­scott chal­lenged Jen­nings’ placement on the primary ballot Aug. 1, 2018 six days before the primary election on Aug. 7. His chal­lenge was with­drawn the next day.

The court decided that Wainscott’s appli­cation to change the ballot prej­u­diced offi­cials and voters because ballots are available to absentee voters 45 days before the election. The court decided that Wain­scott had plenty of time to chal­lenge Jen­nings’ placement on the primary ballot without prej­u­dicing voters.

“I took the steps that were available to me and they never said I had to do it in a certain time frame,” Wain­scott said. “I did it as quick as it would have been rea­sonable to do.”

Wain­scott said he did not know whether or not he would appeal the decision. Legally, he has 21 days from the judge’s decision to file an appeal.

At Monday’s city council meeting, Mayor Adam Stockford thanked Attorneys Thomas Thompson and John Lovinger for defending the council in court.

“I think it says some­thing that the Judge’s opinion pretty much mir­rored what your opinion was, so great job guys,” Stockford said. “Thank you for pro­tecting the city.”

Wain­scott said he would not run for the vacant seat in the special election because of the expense of running another cam­paign.

“I’m far from being rich,” Wain­scott said. “I’m one of the poor ones. I just care about the com­munity because I’ve lived my whole life here.”