, Newburyport, MA

April 30, 2013

Town to investigate residency of candidate

Saab's NH-registered car spurs complaints

By Angeljean Chiaramida

---- — SALISBURY — The town’s Board of Registrars will meet Thursday to review a challenge to the residency of one of the candidates running for selectman in today’s election.

According to Assistant Town Clerk Melinda Morrison, a signed, notarized complaint was emailed to the office yesterday morning from a Salisbury resident challenging the residency of Thomas Saab, one of five candidates on today’s ballot seeking one of the two open seats on Salisbury’s Board of Selectmen.

In response, Town Clerk Wilma McDonald called a meeting of the Board of Registrars for 10 a.m. on Thursday at Town Hall to examine the complaint, filed by the Rev. Dr. Robert J. Gallagher, a resident and member of Salisbury’s Board of Health.

“At the meeting we’ll investigate the evidence (Dr. Gallagher) presented and the registrars will decide if it warrants a formal hearing on the issue,” McDonald said yesterday. “We’re going to have town counsel run the show to make sure we do everything right and that no one’s rights are trampled on.”

The result of Thursday’s meeting and a possible formal hearing to follow could have an impact on the town if Saab wins the election today.

McDonald said since Thursday’s meeting is open to the public; Gallagher, Saab or any other interested party may attend. Should a formal hearing be scheduled, the registrars are allowed to have police help with the investigation, McDonald added.

Gallagher said he’ll be there. As of early yesterday afternoon, Saab said he hadn’t been notified by town officials that there had in fact been a challenge or that a hearing had been scheduled.

“I’m going to wait until I hear from the Wilma (McDonald) about this before I say anything,” Saab said when called yesterday.

Early last week allegations arose concerning the legitimacy of Saab’s Salisbury residency, since his Black Lexus still bears a New Hampshire license plate. Saab confirmed that although he moved to Salisbury permanently two years ago, his car remained registered in New Hampshire, and he still holds a New Hampshire license.

Saab, 59, insists he’s lived for two years full time in an apartment in the building he owns on North End Boulevard, the same building where his real estate office is located. Prior to that, and beginning in 2003, Saab lived in Salem, N.H., where he still owns property and where his Lexus is registered.

When interviewed last week, Saab said he didn’t think he was violating any laws when he continued to keep his cars registered in New Hampshire, where he’s a property owner and taxpayer. He insisted the fact that his car registration and driver’s license are from New Hampshire doesn’t negate that he’s been a full-time resident in Salisbury for the past two years, and has lived in town for at least five or six months out of the year since 1986.

That explanation doesn’t wash with Gallagher, who said that as a Board of Health member he’s dealt with Saab over the implementation of town ordinances. Gallagher said Saab’s candidacy for a seat on the Board of Selectmen is “self-serving.” Gallagher believes Saab is running so that, if elected, he can try to change town ordinances he doesn’t like and that affect his real estate sales and rental business.

Saab chalks up the whole brouhaha over his residency as “baloney.”

“This is all from people who don’t want me to be elected and change the way things are done here,” Saab said on Thursday. “There are people who have personal vendettas against me and don’t want me in office.”

Under Massachusetts state law, those who move to the state have 30 days to register their vehicles in Massachusetts once 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. 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 remains in New Hampshire overnight.

According to the Salisbury voter 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 also registered to vote there, 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.