PAINESVILLE, Ohio (AP) - A man living out of a van in a park is fighting to remain a City Council candidate, challenged by an opponent who argues that he's ineligible because he's homeless.
"I am not showboating. I am not doing this for the publicity," said Michael Padula, 50, a self-employed carpenter. "I would not wish my circumstances on anyone."
However, Padula's opponent in Ward 2, eight-year council veteran William Horvath, says Padula should be removed from the November ballot.
Padula has not established residency for one year, thus rendering him ineligible, Horvath said.
Elections Board members on Wednesday said the issue may set a precedent and scheduled a hearing for Sept. 9.
"This is certainly a unique situation," said Lake County Elections Board Director Jan Clair. "It is sad to say there are people who don't have a home, but does that preclude them from being elected to office?"
The 1995 National Voting Rights Act ruled that homeless persons are entitled to vote even if they do not have a physical residence, Clair said. But for those who lack an actual residence, the question is whether they can be considered residents.
When Padula filed for his candidacy, he listed a garage as his address. Election workers verified it through a landlord who told them that Padula had rented it for a year.
But when city officials this month discovered Padula was living in a windowless garage with no running water, he was evicted.
Padula, a registered voter, then filed a new address, the Lake County Health Department across from the park where he parks his van during the day.
The former Lincoln Electric factory worker said he first became civic-minded when two teenagers were injured in the park after their bike ran into a large pothole.
Padula went to a council meeting to complain but nothing was done. He then gathered 300 signatures. The pothole was eventually fixed.
Painesville is 28 miles northeast of Cleveland.