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Friday, December 02, 2022

Alachua County Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler sued for alleged residency violation

A county resident filed the suit Friday

<p>Alachua County Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler.</p>

Alachua County Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler.

An Alachua County resident filed a lawsuit against incumbent Alachua County commissioner Marihelen Wheeler for alleged residency problems — a contentious issue that has caused other county officials to step down or be removed from office because they weren’t compliant. 

Wheeler said news reports dropped before she herself was aware of the suit.

Eugene Garvin filed a lawsuit Sept. 8 against Alachua County Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler, accusing her of not residing within District 2 during her Aug. 23 election against Democratic opponent Charlie Jackson. 

Alachua County has seen resignations from similar situations in the past year. Former District 1 County Commissioner Mary Alford resigned in May and former District 2 School Board seat Diyonne McGraw resigned in July after being found to be in violation of residency requirements.

Both Eugene Garvin, who filed the suit, and Wheeler are registered Democrats.

If the court rules in favor of Garvin, Wheeler could be disqualified from the District 2 County Commission election. Jackson lost to Wheeler by around 45 percentage points in the August primary.

Wheeler said she adequately met the district requirements and owns multiple homes across Alachua County.

“I have four (residences) in the municipalities of Alachua County, plus a business,” Wheeler said. “I have done everything that I needed to do to be legally in residence at my district.”Wheeler also alleged the lawsuit document was given to news organization WUFT prior to being delivered to her. Wheeler owns a home with her son inside District 2 and legal interpretation simply requires registration at a property in the correct district, The Gainesville Sun reported.

In May questions also circulated about Wheeler’s residency compliance received, according to reports by The Gainesville Sun, though she was not removed from office.

When an elected official resigns, Gov. Ron DeSantis appoints an interim official until the next election cycle.

Wheeler’s set to face off against Republican candidate Ed Braddy in the November election.

Braddy has said he doesn’t believe Wheeler fulfilled proper residency requirements.

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“I think I will fare well against her, part of the problem is she doesn’t even live in the district she wants to represent,’ Braddy said on primary night.

Garvin was contacted via Twitter and Facebook but didn’t respond in time for publication.

Contact Aidan at abush@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @Aidandisto.

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Aidan Bush

Aidan Bush is a second-year journalism major and the city and county commission reporter for the Alligator. Previously, he worked as a reporter for the Citrus County Chronicle. When not writing, he enjoys creating videos, water activities and spending time with his friends.


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