Boyette back in court to defend what he declares his home

Published 12:40 pm Friday, July 13, 2007

By Staff
Superior Court case
slated for Monday
Staff Writer
An appointed Belhaven councilman who’s filed to run for mayor must first appear before a Superior Court judge and prove he lives in the town.
Dr. Charles Boyette, who has held elected office in Belhaven for almost three decades combined, has spent the last year embattled over his declared residency.
Boyette owns homes in town and outside of town. He has claimed his Edward Street address — which is in town — as his primary residence since 1995, according to voter-registration documents.
On Monday, Boyette returns to Superior Court for a similar hearing the court tried last year when a jury found the country doctor did not live in Belhaven at the time of his appointment to a vacant council seat. The ruling temporarily ousted Boyette from the office. He was reappointed two months later, after redeclaring his Edward Street home as his primary residence.
Judge Alma Hinton will be the presiding judge during Monday’s hearing. This case will not be heard by a jury because it calls for an interpretation of law, not fact. Facts are determined by a jury; the law is determined by a judge.
To make a ruling, the judge will review the record of a Beaufort County Board of Elections hearing conducted in August of last year. That board determined Boyette — who had redeclared his residency — was eligible to vote in town elections and, consequently, to hold office.
The board of elections decision was appealed by petitioner Billy Millican, a town resident.
There will be no new testimony given Monday, but lawyers representing Millican and Boyette, respectively, will give arguments based on the record.
The judge could rule on the matter following arguments and rebuttals, or could take it under advisement to study the transcript and postpone a ruling.
Washington lawyer Steve Rader, who has represented Millican in the matter, said the issue the judge will look at is whether Boyette has “done enough” following the jury’s July 2006 verdict “to re-establish residency.”
If the judge overturns the board of elections decision, Boyette would not be eligible to hold office, run for office or vote in the upcoming municipal elections.
The judge, Rader said, could also send the case back to the board of elections for more specific testimony.
That ruling is subject to being appealed, Rader said. In that event, the case would be sent to the Court of Appeals.
Superior Court starts at 10 a.m. Monday, but the Boyette case may not be the first one heard.
Boyette was mayor of Belhaven for 12 consecutive years before losing the 2005 election to sitting Mayor Adam O’Neal.
Months after he lost the mayoral race, a majority of the council voted Boyette back into office to fill the unexpired term of the late Councilman Jimmy Hodges, who resigned from the post for health reasons.
A year in review
Last year was a politically eventful year for Dr. Charles Boyette. Though he lost the mayoral election in 2005, Boyette was very much in Belhaven’s political picture in 2006. Here’s a highlight of the residency issue that has colored Belhaven politics: