Norwell: Voter registrars prepare to examine former selectman’s residency

Wednesday afternoon the Norwell Board of Registrars met to prepare for the May 29th hearing that will examine John Mariano’s status as a voter in that town. Last week, five days before the Norwell Annual Town Election, two voters filed a formal challenge to Mariano’s residency status. Mariano, a twelve-year incumbent on the Board of Selectmen and its chairman, lost re-election Saturday to challenger David DeCoste.

“Although in the complaint they talk about the ability of the person to hold public office, that’s no longer the question,” Registrar Bruce Burgess said. “Now the question is whether or not this Board of Registrars is or is not going to remove Mr/ Mariano’s right to vote in the Town of Norwell.”

Mariano lost the election, but the challenge to his voting status stands and the Registrars must proceed. Mariano has been summoned to the hearing and the challengers have been notified. If the challengers do not appear, the Registrars will drop the matter. Burgess said, if Mariano swears he is a Norwell resident, he will call for the hearing to end.

If the challengers present a convincing case, the Registrars can delete Mariano from the voting resister. While Massachusetts law provides a process for deleting a voter from the register, it does not define residency–voters define their own residency. If the Registrars follow that process and delete Mariano for the register of voters, he has the option of re-registering as a Norwell voter.

“He has the ability to come in the next day and re-register,” Town Counsel Bob Galvin said. “Residency can be established in a moment.”

The previous three meetings of the Registrars have focused very narrowly on the rarely used process and whether the challenge to Mariano’s residency met the minimum standards for probable cause. The May 29th hearing, if it goes forth, will focus on the evidence presented in the complaint.

The challengers, David Campbell and Albert Guild, cite eight pieces of evidence: Mariano had resided with his wife in a Bay Path lane house, he moved to a rented house on Grove Street, at least two years ago he left that location to reside “with his companion” in Quincy, he listed a P.O. box as his address three years ago, Mariano’s attorney bought a house on Mariano’s behalf on Mount Blue Street in February, neighbors have never seen Mariano in the Mount Blue Street house, neighbors have seen a pile of trash left by the former occupants of the Mount Blue Street house in the driveway since December, in a WATD political forum last week Mariano said the Mount Blue Street house is in disrepair and “he has slept there but not always.”

Anderson received a new voter registration form from Mariano Feb. 6, 2012, the date of the Mount Blue Street house purchase. Mariano wrote 358 Mount Blue Street as his address.

Norwell Registrars will next meet May 29th at 6:30 p.m. in the Town Hall. Closely following the Open Meeting Law, they will open the public hearing, then go into closed session to discuss process with the hearing officer, then re-open the public hearing. Both sides may have legal representation, present evidence and call witnesses. The public may attend, but not participate unless called as a witness. The four registrars will serve as a quasi-judicial board.

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About Charles Mathewson

Charles Mathewson worked in print journalism for more than two decades as a reporter and editor, and has won several regional and national awards. He resides in Plymouth where he writes fiction and paints, when not producing award-winning news as a reporter for WATD.