A York County judge said he needs a little time to decide whether a man who admitted in a courtroom Tuesday that he has "absolutely no desire to live in York City" still has the right to run for mayor.
That's the office Joe Beltrante, a 32-year-old Air Force veteran and businessman, is seeking.
He joined incumbent Mayor Kim Bracey and York City Council President Carol Hill-Evans in filing the necessary paperwork earlier this month to get his name on Democrats' ballot in the May 21 primary.
There's just one problem, according to Meg Hill-Grigson and Charlotte Bergdoll. Citing tax and voting records, the two York City residents filed a petition last week arguing that Beltrante is not eligible to be mayor because he hasn't lived in the city long enough.
The law requires mayoral candidates to have lived in the city at least one year "immediately preceding his election."
That led to Tuesday's hearing, during which Beltrante took the stand before President Judge Stephen Linebaugh.
Beltrante submitted gas, electricity and high-speed Internet bills as evidence that he lives at 620 S. Queen St. He also said his vehicle registration and car insurance are both tied to that address. And, he said, he submitted federal tax returns in 2011 and 2012 giving 620 S. Queen St. as his home.
"I've lived there for two solid years," Beltrante said during testimony.
However, Beltrante said, his wife and young son live in Manchester Township. The couple is neither legally separated nor pursuing a divorce, he said.
On the stand, Maryna Beltrante said that her husband never spends the night in Manchester Township, and she never spends the night in the city.
"I understand that my living situation is very unique," Joe Beltrante said. "I have absolutely no desire to live in York City."
That statement seemed to strike a chord with Linebaugh, who said candidates should not be allowed to "manufacture" residency in order to seek political office.
"If it were up to me, I'd remove him from the ballot," Linebaugh said.
But, he added, this is a question of whether or not Beltrante meets the legal requirements to be mayor. Linebaugh said he needs some time to review the testimony and do some research before reaching a conclusion.
Beltrante contends that he lives at 620 S. Queen St., a property he bought "sight unseen" for about $32,000 in 2009 with the intention of renting it out like the eight or nine other homes he owns in York City. Beltrante said he put about $20,000 worth of upgrades into the home and began looking for tenants.
But, he said after the hearing, several attempts to rent the property were unsuccessful. Only criminals wanted to live there, Beltrante said.
Leaving it vacant wasn't a choice, he said, because criminals "would gut it."
So, Beltrante said, he moved into the property about two years ago to prevent his asset from falling into ruin.
"I see it as I'm forced to live here because of undesirable conditions," he said.
Those conditions, Beltrante said, are what he would work to change if elected mayor.
The property is not listed for sale, Beltrante said, adding that he'd sell the property "in a heartbeat" for $40,000.
-- Erin James may also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.