UPDATED: Fellow Republican challenges Perry Township Trustee’s residency; Democrats accuse Election Board of ‘willful inaction’

Eric Tippmann
Brandon Seifert,

The Allen County Election Board has been asked — for the second time — to decide whether the Perry Township Trustee is eligible to keep the office to which he was elected in November.

Eric Tippmann, who defeated incumbent Republican Trustee James McIntosh in last year’s Republican primary and Democrat Melissa Rinehart in November, moved out of the township late last year and into a home on Lake Avenue — a move he said would make it easier for one a non-driving daughter to attend ballet class. Rinehart and others challenged Tippmann’s residency at the time, but by a 2-1 vote the board allowed Tippmann to remain on the November ballot because of his stated intention to return to his Willow Wind Trail as early as January.

But as The News-Sentinel reported Saturday, Tippmann — a candidate for Fort Wayne City Council in the May GOP primary — now says he may move back after the end of the school year or after spring break to give the people living there now more time to renovate the new house they have purchased.

Citing The News-Sentinel report, the Republican president of the Huntertown Town Council has asked the Election Board to take another look at Tippmann’s residency. In a complaint filed Monday, Seifert alleges that “Tippmann misled Perry Township voters in 2018 . . . (and) has had no intention of moving back.” Tippmann’s Willow Wind home is within the city limits, meaning he did not have to move to Lake Avenue in order to run for council.

Election Board President Tom Hardin was not immediately sure when the board might consider Seifert’s complaint, but previously told The News-Sentinel it would not matter whether Tippmann intended to run for council even before he was elected trustee. But if the board could determine that Tippmann does not intend to move back to Perry Township, as Seifert alleges, that could jeopardize his position as trustee, Hardin added.

And in a statement, Allen County Democratic Party Chairwomen Misty Meehan charged the Election Board with “willful inaction” in the case.

“I do not understand how board Chair Hardin can say (in The News-Sentinel’s previous story) that the ‘process worked.’ The process clearly did not work. Eric Tippmann had indicated he would be returning to the Perry Township address in January. We are now almost half way through February and Tippmann still has not returned to the township he purports to represent,” she wrote. “If the Election Board had conducted an investigation when the Rinehart complaint had been filed, the situation would have been resolved by now.”

Meehan added that the board’s “decision to simply take the word of a candidate when there was a complaint filed has set a dangerous precedent . . . The public trust has been diminished by the board’s wilful inaction regarding whether or not a candidate should have even been able to run at all.”