Thursday, March 20, 2003

Bates says he had no choice about Virginia taxes, license


Maintains he was still Ky. resident in court challenge

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

LA GRANGE, Ky. - Hunter Bates, insisting he has always been a Kentucky resident, concedes he paid income taxes and got a driver's license in Virginia, but that he had no choice.

Bates, running mate of Republican gubernatorial candidate Ernie Fletcher, is the subject of a lawsuit that alleges he does not meet a requirement of Kentucky's 1891 Constitution: that a candidate for lieutenant governor must be a citizen and a resident of the state for the six years preceding election.

Bates says his residency was researched and considered when Fletcher invited him to run on the slate.

Of the lawsuit, Bates said, "It's not about law. It's about politics. ... I'm a lifelong resident of Kentucky."

A hearing on the suit began Wednesday in Oldham County Circuit Court before Judge Paul Rosenblum. Bates may take the witness stand when the hearing resumes this morning.

The suit was filed by Curtis Shain, a University of Louisville student. It since has been joined by one of Bates' Republican primary opponents, Bob Heleringer, running mate of Steve Nunn.

Bates lived in Alexandria, Va., and worked in a Washington law firm and as a top staffer for U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell from 1995 until last year.

But Bates claims that he was never a permanent resident of Virginia. He says he and his wife, Jennifer, leased year-to-year in Virginia because they knew they would be returning to Kentucky.

However, Virginia law required anyone living in the state for at least six months to get a Virginia license and motor vehicle plates and to file a Virginia income tax return, according to a court brief filed by Bates' attorneys.

In any event, "the issue here is whether Hunter Bates is a constitutional resident, not whether he's a tax resident," one of his attorneys, James Milliman of Louisville, told the judge. Bates "did what Virginia law forced him to do" about being licensed and paying taxes, Milliman said.

Attorneys for Shain and Heleringer said the case should be decided on Bates' "actual residence" during the disputed period, three years of which he spent as a full-time employee of a Washington law firm.

"Whether he came back to Kentucky ... whether he was born and raised in Kentucky, all that is irrelevant," Heleringer attorney Tom Hectus said.

"When he began the private practice of law in Washington, D.C., and was living in Virginia, his residency was in Virginia," Hectus said.

Also Wednesday, Heleringer tried and failed to have Milliman removed as Bates' attorney. Before Shain filed his suit, Heleringer considered filing his own challenge to Bates' residency and called Milliman about taking his case, Heleringer said.

Ruling against Heleringer, Rosenblum concluded that the conversation entailed no confidential information that would establish a privileged, attorney-client relationship.




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