With early voting starting Monday, a now-disqualified candidate for an open seat on the Atlanta City Council has filed an emergency petition asking a judge to declare his monthlong residency at an Airbnb rental to count toward the city’s statutory residency requirements.
A hearing on the petition filed by council hopeful Matthew Cardinale is scheduled for Friday at 2 p.m. before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kelly Lee Ellerbe.
Cardinale, who is seeking the District 3 seat left open by the death of Council Member Ivory Lee Young, was declared ineligible for the seat by Atlanta Municipal Clerk Foris Webb III. Webb said Cardinale’s stay from mid-January to mid-February 2018 at the Airbnb rental in Home Park—although within the district as required—did not qualify as “residency.”
A Feb. 18 letter from Webb said that, following a hearing he held the previous week, Cardinale did not meet the one-year residency requirement.
Webb wrote that his decision was based on the fact that, at the time Cardinale was living at the Airbnb rental, Cardinale also had a valid lease at another property. Cardinale also was negotiating with a rent-to-own company for a house in Hunter Hills, within the district, which Cardinale moved into last February from the Airbnb rental.
“My decision is also based on (what I consider) the inherently temporary nature of obtaining housing through a service such as Airbnb,” Webb wrote. “Unlike hotels, Airbnb bookings are not generally considered to be of a continuous nature based on the guests’ desire to remain and ability to pay. It is my opinion that a rental through Airbnb is short-term and not indefinite or continuous.”
Webb said he was not at liberty to discuss the matter because of the pending litigation.
Cardinale, who has a law degree but has not sat for the Georgia bar exam, argued in his pro se filing that the “personal opinion of Mr. Webb, as he admits is what he considers, is unsupported by any authority and is therefore an error of law, as well as an abuse of discretion.”
Whether he intended to permanently reside in the Airbnb unit is immaterial, Cardinale argued.
“It would be unreasonable and absurd—and it would violate Georgia appellate case law and the plain language of Georgia statutory law—to construe Georgia’s definition of residency as to require Cardinale or anyone else to have an intention to permanently remain at any one address,” he wrote.
As far as living in a hotel as a bar to residency, Cardinale noted that former U.S. President Herbert Hoover lived at the Waldorf Astoria in New York for 31 years, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower lived there for two years before his death in 1969.
In an interview, Cardinale said he was confident that he was on sound legal footing.
“I have very clearly shown the errors of law committed by the city of Atlanta and Foris Webb,” he said. “He made up his own legal principles, and I don’t see where municipal clerks are authorized to create law. That’s the job of the Legislature.”
Eight other candidates have qualified for the District 3 seat, including Shalis Young, Greg Clay, Jabari Simama, Erika Estrada, Byron Amos, Ricky Brown, Antonio Brown and Mesha Mainor.