The Altus Times received several inquiries about City of Altus Councilman, Mike Patterson of Ward 4, relating to his permanent place of residence. According to Oklahoma State Statute, any elected official who ceases to be a resident of the municipality ceases to be an elected official.
Councilman Patterson and his wife have resided in the 400 Block of Willard Drive for 35 years, but last year they began building their new log cabin style home outside Altus city limits in Jackson County.
“I’m not trying to hide anything. I’m still a legal resident of Altus,” Councilman Patterson said in an interview. “I live at one house, and when I sell that house, I will resign from Council.”
Patterson stated that many of their belongings have been sold or given to the Salvation Army in preparing to sell their home. While his house is not currently listed with any real estate agency, Patterson shared that they prefer to remain an independent seller and have shown the house to several different people, so far without a buyer.
“They say you’ve abandoned your domicile when you leave it and don’t intend to come back. And I haven’t done that. When I sell my house I will,” Patterson said.
Still the question has come up if Patterson actually “lives” in Altus.
Last year, Patterson had a company build the shell to his log cabin home several miles northeast of Altus, out in the country, leaving all the electrical, flooring, sheet rock, plumbing, and other installation for him, he explained.
On site there is a FEMA trailer which serves as a “glorified camper” during continued construction and is not meant for permanent use, he explained, stating that some nights they stay at their house in town and some nights in the country.
“I stay out here a lot. It’s my dream home,” Patterson said.
Patterson, who has been with the City of Altus since he began working as a police officer in 1970, later becoming the Altus Police Chief for 17 years, said that he has done some research prior to working on his new house and inquired locally with Jackson County and the City of Altus Attorney.
According to Jackson County Assessor, Lisa Roberson, when a house is being built within the county, an appraisal of the home is not performed until building is complete and is not placed on the tax roll until the following year.
Patterson said that he asked Altus City Attorney, Catherine Coke, to research any Attorney General’s opinions that might pertain to officials with temporary housing arrangements.
According to City Attorney Coke, Councilman Patterson remains to be a member of the City Council and that his votes continue to be valid.
“My opinion is that he has not done all the steps necessary to permanently change his residence,” Coke said. “A person may have multiple dwellings, but can have only one ‘primary residence’ at a time… Once fixed, that domicile continues until a new one is established, and the first domicile is actually abandoned. The house being built in the country apparently has no working plumbing, furniture, or an address.
“It is my understanding he is still registered to vote in his ward, has furniture, personal belongings, and gets his mail and Council agendas at his primary residence on Willard Drive, and that he has not permanently moved to that location. While the test is subjective, establishing domicile is a fact question, dependent upon his intentions.”
Currently there is no definitive “move-in” date.
“I think it’s legal and if Catherine or another competent authority tells me otherwise, I plan on going on,” Patterson said.