The Pottawatomie County Election Board, which reconvened for a Contest of Candidacy hearing Thursday, unanimously voted to remove John Winterringer’s name as a candidate in the Ward 5 Shawnee city commission race.

The Pottawatomie County Election Board, which reconvened for a Contest of Candidacy hearing Thursday, unanimously voted to remove John Winterringer’s name as a candidate in the Ward 5 Shawnee city commission race.

With that ruling, Lesa Shaw, who filed the petition claiming Winterringer no longer resides in Ward 5, automatically wins the seat unopposed.

The three-panel election board, in reviewing evidence before the official vote, discussed that Winterringer didn’t prove any intent to move back into his Ward 5 home.

By his earlier testimony, Winterringer said he is living with his parents to care for one who is in failing health; renters currently live in his Ward 5 home, testimony concluded.

After the vote, Winterringer extended a handshake to congratulate Shaw.

“I thank the board for their hard work — it was a very fair process,” Winterringer said.

Shaw, who is employed by the Absentee Shawnee Tribe, has resided in Shawnee the past two years and said she is excited to serve the city of Shawnee and its residents.

“I look forward to it as a challenge and opportunity,” Shaw said, acknowledging the difficult decision by the election board in this matter.

Winterringer, the current city commissioner for Ward 5, will serve out the remainder of his term. Shaw, along with the new Ward 1 commissioner already elected without opposition and whichever candidate voters elect to Ward 6, will take oaths of office after the general election.

Several witnesses testified during Thursday’s informal hearing, including Winterringer and Shaw.

Shaw contested Winterringer’s candidacy after learning he no longer resides in his home on Mesa Verde Drive, which is the address in Ward 5 that he listed on his paperwork for candidacy.

Dr. Joe Hall, a retired professor who serves as the Neighborhood Watch president and lives across a cul-de-sac from Winterringer’s home, testified that he discussed this matter with Shaw and said someone else has been living in Winnterringer’s home since around November.

Shaw said she was “shocked” when learning Winteringer filed as a candidate during the candidate filing period earlier this month.

During the hearing, Winterringer stated he lives with his parents at a home on East Federal Street. During opening statements for this matter, his attorney, Julie Landes, said this is a temporary situation.

As the hearing unfolded, several matters and exhibits were discussed.

Shaw’s attorney, Bruce Winston, introduced a lease for Winterringer’s home that was signed July 22, 2013, with the one-year lease beginning Aug. 6. Winteringer said that lease ends at the end of July.

Winston asked Winterringer if he was concerned about moving in with his parents and still being able to serve in Ward 5; Winterringer said he was more concerned about his family.

Winston also had a copy of a letter written by Winterringer to Shawnee’s mayor informing him that he no longer lived on Mesa Verde, with him asking for advice on finishing his term.

The Shawnee city commission discussed this issue at a meeting last fall but took no action on the issue.

When asked by Winston what he will do about his living arrangement or if he will ever move back to the home on Mesa Verde, Winterringer didn’t know.

“I’m not for sure what I’m going to do — I live one day at a time,” Winterringer said.

Also submitted as evidence by Shaw was a Tweet from Winterringer’s Twitter page last year that shows the Mesa Verde house was for sale by owner. Winterringer said he didn’t pursue that after finding renters, but answered he doesn’t know if he will try to sell the home in the future.

Further information indicated some of his belongings are still at the house and he still pays the water, sewer and trash bill, along with the Internet and Direct TV bills, which remain in his name, although he has transferred his mail to his parent's home.

Kate Joyce, who is director of the Shawnee Senior Center, testified on Winterringer’s behalf and spoke about Alzheimer’s patients. She said if a family member is willing to come forward to help, they shouldn’t be punished if they can still do their job.

“People should be able to take care of their loved ones,” she said.

Joyce made similar sentiments during the Citizen Participation portion of the October city commission meting.

During closing statements, Winston said at issue wasn’t whether or not a candidate is a good person, but whether Winterringer was a legal resident of Ward 5 for the six months immediately before the candidate-filing period.

“I thought we would hear about his intent to return to the Ward, but that’s not what we heard,” Winston said. “He’s not even sure whether he will return…or sell his house.”

Landes cited Attorney General and Supreme Court cases on issues involving someone’s legal residence, including addresses on a driver license, property taxes and utility bills.

“A legal residence is not just where you sleep every night,” she said.

“Let Mr. Winterringer’s name remain on the ballot and let the voters decide,” Landes urged.

District Attorney Richard Smothermon, serving as legal counsel for the Election Board, said he had gone over the case law and said Landes was correct in some of the issues concerning a legal residence, but he also said it involves the “intent of the person to return to the residence or not.”

An initial motion was made to let Winnterringer’s name remain on the ballot, but that topic was then tabled for a recess for the board to further discuss legal issues.

Upon reconvening, the board discussed not hearing any indication from Winterringer about moving back into the Ward, along with no evidence entered of a driver license having his Ward 5 address.

With a standing motion of his name remaining the ballot, all voted no on that matter before a new motion to have his name stricken from the ballot passed by all three on the Election Board — Diana Knight, Peggy Harwell and Doris Norton.