An Arlington attorney is asking the city attorney to open a formal investigation into City Council candidate Charla Hawkes Vinyard's eligibility to run for office and to serve on the planning and zoning commission.
David Weaver said reports that Hawkes Vinyard previously claimed two homestead exemptions, one for a house in Arlington, the other for a home on the shores of Lake Lewisville, raises the question of where the Arlington native really lives.
"Individuals residing in the neighborhood where her Arlington property is located report that she seldom, if ever, is seen at the property and does not spend her nights there," Weaver wrote in a letter dated April 2. "It is my opinion that the City, by and through its executive officers, has a duty to further investigate this matter and to make a determination as to the eligibility" of Hawkes Vinyard to continue her service or to run for office.
Weaver sent his letter to City Manager Trey Yelverton, City Attorney Jay Doegey and City Secretary Mary Supino.
The Star-Telegram reported late last month that Hawkes Vinyard apparently violated state law by claiming two homestead exemptions.
One of the homes is at 1908 Bever Blvd. in central Arlington. She lists that address on her voter registration, her professional real estate licenses and her application to be placed on the May 12 general election ballot. The home is valued at $141,000.
She also has taken a homestead exemption on a house valued at about $610,000 in the Denton County community of Frisco, according to public records. The home was owned by her husband, Paul Vinyard, before their marriage in September 2009, and they are now both listed on the deed.
The day before the Star-Telegram story was published, she filed paperwork with the Tarrant Appraisal District to remove the exemption on her Arlington home and to pay back taxes. She said she did not remember signing the application for the exemption on the Lewisville Lake home.
Hawkes Vinyard said on Tuesday that she was not aware of Weaver's investigation, or his letter to the city. She said she did not know him personally, and was unfamiliar with both his name and his law firm. She said she could only speculate on his motives.
"He hasn't contacted me at all," Hawkes Vinyard said. "My feeling is that it probably comes from an opponent's camp, but I don't know who it would be. And really, who knows?"
Hawkes Vinyard told the Star-Telegram last month that she did not realize she was claiming tax breaks on both properties, which she and her husband share, until one of her opponents raised it as a campaign issue.
Neither Weaver nor Doegey could be reached on Tuesday morning.
Under state law, individuals or married couples can claim only one homestead exemption, and that home must be their principal residence, according to the appraisal districts for Denton and Tarrant counties.
In March, Doegey said having a homestead exemption on a home in another county does not make Hawkes Vinyard ineligible if she states that she also lives in Arlington. He said they take "at face value" Hawkes Vinyard's statements that she is a resident of Arlington.
In his letter, Weaver said he is not so convinced. The fact she has withdrawn her Arlington homestead exemption while keeping the one in Frisco is still troubling to him.
"While this fact, alone, may not disqualify her from office, additional facts discovered in my current investigation suggest that she, from both a legal and a factual standpoint, clearly has established her residence in Frisco," he wrote. "Although Ms. Hawkes-Vinyard has been quoted in press reports suggesting her intent is to be an Arlington resident, the objective facts now known demonstrate otherwise."
Hawkes-Vinyard is one of five candidates vying for the at-large City Council seat, which is the unexpired term of former Councilman Gene Patrick, who resigned last year due to health issues.
Chief Appraiser Jeff Law said last month that one of Hawkes Vinyard's political opponents had alerted the Tarrant Appraisal District about the two tax exemptions.
Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657
Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/04/03/3856945/arlington-attorney-seeks-inquiry.html#storylink=cpy