SALISBURY — An out-of-state license plate is raising questions about the legal residency of a candidate running for a seat on the Board of Selectmen.
A number of individuals contacted The Daily News and other town offices questioning whether selectman candidate Thomas J. Saab actually lives year-round in Salisbury, and if he is eligible to run for town office. One of the reasons for doubt is that his black Lexus carries a New Hampshire license plate and is regularly parked at Saab’s North End Boulevard address.
According to Saab, 59, he moved to Salisbury Beach full-time two years ago. Prior to that, and beginning in 2003, Saab lived in Salem, N.H., where he still owns property and where his Lexus is registered. Saab also confirmed yesterday that he has a New Hampshire driver’s license.
Saab said he didn’t think it would be a problem to live in Massachusetts while keeping vehicles registered in New Hampshire, because he’s a property owner in the Granite State.
“I pay a lot of taxes to the state of New Hampshire, and it was my understanding that I could register my cars in New Hampshire while living full-time here (in Salisbury),” Saab said. “I have four vehicle registered in my name in New Hampshire, but the three other cars are housed in Salem, N.H.”
Under Massachusetts state law, residents have 30 days to register their vehicles in Massachusetts once they move here. According to Salisbury police Chief Tom Fowler, an out-of-state registered car cannot be kept in town overnight for more than 30 days without violating the law.
In New Hampshire, a person must prove residency to register a car there, according to the Seabrook town clerk’s office. However, those who own property in New Hampshire, but live elsewhere, can register up to one vehicle in the state, under the condition that the vehicle remain permanently in New Hampshire overnight.
Saab said he has intended to get a Massachusetts driver’s license since moving to the state, but just hasn’t had the time to it. But he still doubts he’s violated the motor vehicle laws in either Massachusetts or New Hampshire.
“I will register my car in Massachusetts if I’m required to,” Saab said. “But I’m going to do research first to make sure that’s the case.”
Saab showed surprise that his residency is being challenged and blames those who have a grudge against him for making all the fuss.
“This is all baloney. This is all from people who don’t want me to be elected and change the way things are done here,” Saab said. “There are people who have personal vendettas against me and don’t want me in office.”
According to Salisbury Town Clerk Wilma Mahoney, she’s had conversations with about half a dozen people who have questioned Saab’s eligibility to run for office because of the residency issue, but as of yesterday no formal complaint against him had been lodged.
In fact, Saab’s residency was challenged at last October’s Town Meeting, when he rose to speak on an issue. But that challenge was denied, for his name is on the Salisbury list of registered voters.
Mahoney said her office can only officially investigate a residency challenge after she gets a written, signed complaint.
“Put it in writing,” Mahoney said. “That’s what starts the process for us.”
Before he lived in Salisbury full-time, Saab said, he lived in town six months out of the year, while living elsewhere for the remaining months.
“It’s really a very unique situation for me. In 1986, I built my office here and I lived in Salisbury for six months of the year and at other times as well,” said Saab, who owns and runs Tom Saab Real Estate, with an office in the building where he lives.
According to local voter registration records, Saab registered to vote in Salisbury on March 27, 2000, and has voted in a number of elections here since then. Specifically, Saab voted in Salisbury in the state elections of November of 2000, 2002, 2012, and he also voted at the Salisbury Town Meetings of October 2012 and May 2008, as well as the Salisbury spring election of May 2000.
But according to the Voter Check List of Salem, N.H., Saab is registered to vote there as well, with a status of “active.” Officials in Salem did not believe they could provide information on which elections Saab has voted in over the past years.
Complaint issued over campaign pamphlet
Saab also ran afoul of the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office recently after someone complained that he reproduced the state seal on his campaign literature, which he mailed out to 1,700 registered voters who live at Salisbury Beach.
According to the April 22 letter sent to Saab by Shawn Williams of the Secretary of State’s office, using the state seal in the way he did is prohibited by state law.
Saab was “ordered to cease and desist from all use of the (state) Seal effective immediately,” and provide written assurance that he did so within 10 days of receiving the notice.
Saab said he had no idea he was doing anything wrong when he photocopied the seal on his campaign brochure or the absentee ballot applications he mailed out with the pamphlet. He said he hasn’t used the seal since, but added that the Secretary of State’s website election information does not say that the state seal cannot be reproduced.
“I didn’t think we were doing anything wrong,” Saab said. “I hope to meet with the people from the Secretary of State’s office to tell them they really need to add that information about the state seal on their website.”