The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Stafford school post vacant?
BY KATIE THISDELL
A change in residency has put into question whether Stafford County School Board member Doreen Phillips can hold onto her elected seat.
Phillips, the Hartwood District representative since 2006, now has an address in the city of Fredericksburg, according to a letter sent to her by Stafford Voter Registrar Greg Riddlemoser.
He notified Phillips this week “to formally acknowledge that you have vacated your elected position.” A similar letter was sent to the clerk of the School Board.
State code requires elected officials to be eligible to vote in the district they represent throughout their tenure.
On Thursday afternoon, Phillips said she believes she is still entitled to hold the School Board seat.
Though she co-owns a house on Altoona Drive in the city, she is also leasing space on Poplar Road in the Hartwood District. She said she spends time at both.
Phillips said she has since applied to change her voter registration back to the county.
Riddlemoser could not confirm that Thursday, saying he cannot release individual voter information.
Between June and September, Phillips had changed her address with the Department of Motor Vehicles, the U.S. Postal Service and the state Board of Elections, according to Riddlemoser’s letter, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
She had owned a home with her husband on Coakley Lane in Stafford since 2000, according to property records. That house was sold in May.
Doreen Phillips is listed as an owner of a home on Altoona Drive, purchased last November.
“While your actions above may have been inadvertent, they are irreversible,” Riddlemoser wrote in his letter sent Monday.
Phillips, the mother of two-college aged children, said she is going through a divorce, along with other personal issues.
As a broker and owner of Phillips Team Realty & Property Management, she owns several properties in the region.
She criticized Riddlemoser’s letter, saying he did not have the authority to essentially remove her from the School Board. She said the issue could have been handled differently.
School Board Chairwoman Stephanie Johnson said legal counsel has reviewed the notice, and said that neither the registrar nor School Board can declare the seat vacant.
Only a Circuit Court judge or the individual elected official can vacate the seat, Johnson said, referring to attorney Patrick Lacy’s opinion.
Efforts to reach Lacy on Thursday were unsuccessful.
A spokeswoman for the State Board of Elections said she did not know who had that authority, but she was researching the matter.
The School Board website lists the Poplar Road address for Phillips.
Phillips, 49, is in the middle of her second term. She first held the seat in 2006, and was re-elected in 2009. Her term ends in December 2013.
If the seat is determined to be vacated, the School Board has 45 days to appoint an interim member. A special election would then be scheduled.
In the letter to the clerk of the School Board, Riddlemoser said the board may want to review votes she took over the last several months, since her address changes indicate that she was not a Hartwood resident since June.
Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975