Yelm City Council candidate Matthew McLellan is strongly denying claims by incumbent Joe DePinto that he is ineligible for office based on residency requirements.
DePinto accused his challenger of misrepresenting where he lives in a press release last week.
DePinto has not filed a voter challenge, a move that would be required in order to prompt the county auditor’s office to investigate the claims.
“I haven’t really thought about it that far, but his action has some serious implications,” DePinto said, adding that he’ll file a voter challenge if McLellan doesn’t withdraw.
In a statement released Tuesday, DePinto, 32, said his campaign found discrepancies with where McLellan, 28, reportedly lived on his voter registration when he changed his listed residency in March to an address within city limits.
According to DePinto, McLellan’s voting records show his permanent residence was listed at 9310 Cullens Road S.E. during last year’s midterm election in November and during the special election in February.
DePinto claims McLellan updated his residency in March 2019 to an address on Fourth Street Southeast, which is within Yelm city limits.
The Yelm council incumbent then asserted the evidence showed either McLellan isn’t eligible to assume elected office on the Yelm City Council, or that he knowingly falsified information in recent elections or his registration for candidacy. According to Washington law, city council candidates must be a registered voter and have lived at an address within the city for one year in order to satisfy eligibility to hold elected office.
McLellan said Wednesday that the address was the location of his childhood home, and confirmed the location was registered as his permanent residence during the special election.
The address on Cullens Road is also listed on McLellan’s candidate registration. According to county parcel information, the address is located in unincorporated Thurston County and not within city limits.
Cullens Road marks the boundary of city limits, and McLellan’s address was on the unincorporated side of the road.
McLellan said DePinto’s claims are inaccurate and that the Thurston County Auditor’s Office has given him the OK to run. He also said he’s lived at his current address on Fourth Street for more than 12 months, but couldn’t give an exact date on when he moved in.
“I’m really disappointed that he would go so far as to spread this kind of trash,” McLellan said. “I really believe this is below Yelm politics.”
McLellan also asserted that the definition of a permanent address is incredibly tricky. He said he has moved around multiple times within the last 10 years, but believes there’s a great deal of assumption on the part of DePinto and his efforts to frame the issue as a technicality.
“I just want everyone to know that this is inaccurate,” McLellan said. “I don’t want to tell you how many times I’ve moved in the last 10 years because I don’t want to give you ammunition.”
Before the candidates each began their campaigns, McLellan said he spoke with the DePinto about running a clean campaign.
McLellan said he is disappointed to see that pact broken.
“I hope that people vote for me or for Joe based on how well they think we can represent them as residents of Yelm,” he said.
According to parcel information from Thurston GeoData, McLellan’s permanent address listed at 9310 Cullens Road is not within city limits but rather on a small peninsula of unincorporated Thurston County that protrudes into city limits. Cullens Road is the de facto boundary dividing city limits.