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Pamelia supervisor under elections probe for Florida residency

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Lawrence C. Longway, Pamelia supervisor since 2003, filed papers in 2010 establishing himself as a legal resident of Florida.

Since that time, it appears Mr. Longway has served illegally in his town position. State law requires that a supervisor reside in the town in which he serves. The Jefferson County Board of Elections recently discovered that Mr. Longway may not qualify as a registered voter in New York and is conducting an investigation. Mr. Longway filed a petition to run as a Republican candidate for town supervisor in the county’s primary election Sept. 10, and he is listed on the ballot against Scott J. Allen.

The board recently received a letter about Mr. Longway’s Florida residency from Rochester resident Suzanne Phillips, a Pamelia native. Mr. Longway and his wife, Virginia, bought a property for $725,000 at 1245 Acappella Lane, Apollo Beach, Fla., in July 2007, according to Hillsborough County property records. The couple is listed as owners on the deed and property sale record.

But Mr. Longway claims he is a New York state resident, said Republican Commissioner Jerry O. Eaton, although sources say he spends most of his time in Florida. On the election petition submitted in July, Mr. Longway listed his permanent address as Long-Park Tire, a commercial building he owns at 23751 Route 342.

After informing Mr. Longway of the investigation last week, Mr. Eaton said, the board learned that the town doesn’t have a law prohibiting use of a commercial building as a residence. Mr. Longway was given two weeks to submit evidence to prove he is a legal resident, which is due Wednesday.

“His name is on the ballot for the primary election, and that won’t change because the law doesn’t require candidates to be residents until the day of the general election in November,” Mr. Eaton said. “But the case is still under investigation because we haven’t had a response, and the ball is in Mr. Longway’s court to provide evidence that shows he’s a resident in the town of Pamelia. This could be a unique case, because the zoning law in the town is more liberal” than others in Jefferson County.

Mr. Longway said Thursday that he plans to submit a large packet of documents to the Board of Elections. He claimed Long-Park Tire as his residence this winter after selling his house at 23802 Route 37 on Jan. 18 for $190,000 to Jackie L. St. John Jr., according to Jefferson County property records. Mr. Longway did not claim a STAR exemption for the house.

“They never even contacted me before they made this judgment call,” Mr. Longway said Thursday by telephone from his Florida house. “I have all kinds of proof I’m still a legal resident of the state of New York. All of the income tax I’ve paid has went through New York state, and I have my driver’s license. My accountant has done my books for over 40 years, and he told (the board) that if I’m not allowed to vote in New York state, they’re not going to get my income taxes because I’m going to pull out of New York and move to Florida.”

In spite of that evidence, however, Mr. Longway signed a document in March 2010 identifying himself as a permanent Florida resident. To seek tax relief for their house on Tampa Bay, the Longways applied for a Homestead Exemption at the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Office. Though Mrs. Longway initially applied as a single applicant in February, Mr. Longway added his information after the couple learned that married couples who own homes are required to apply together, said Marilyn Martinez, manager of the exemptions department.

One of the questions on the application asks, “When did you last become a permanent resident of Florida?” Mr. Longway answered June 1, 2004. The Longways had a previous home in the Tampa Bay area.

“Had we known at that time he might have had a home out of state, we would have looked into that,” Ms. Martinez said. “We have a compliance department in charge of investigations.”

The Longways have garnered savings from the Homestead Exemption of at least $750 a year since 2010, Ms. Martinez said. The compliance department will now investigate Mr. Longway’s history, she said. If it discovers Mr. Longway was indeed a New York resident when he applied, she said, it will place a homestead lien on the residence and attempt to recover money the couple saved.

“I don’t ever remember doing that,” Mr. Longway said when asked about his signature on the application. “And I don’t think my name should be even on that deed” for the property.

Mr. Longway said he bought the property in his own name as a vacant lot in 2007. Construction of the house began in 2008 and was finished in 2009. Mr. Longway said his wife should be listed as the sole property owner.

“Once I got the house built in 2009 and she was living in it, I rolled the property over in her name,” he said.

Mr. Longway said he splits his time living in Florida and Pamelia. He makes flights about once a month to attend Town Council meetings and attend to business in the area. In addition to Long-Park Tire, he owns Longway’s Diner, 23725 Route 342.

“I certainly do not spend half of the time in Florida,” he said. He then continued: “It’s probably half and half. I’m coming north Monday and going up for all of September.”

But Code Enforcement Officer Walter H. VanTassel said: “He spends the bulk of his time in Florida, like 12 months of the year, but he’s back up here for board meetings. He comes up here for about a week or so each month for board meetings.”

Mr. VanTassel inspected Mr. Longway’s living arrangement at Long-Park Tire last week, and he said it qualifies as a residence.

“You can live in the same building with a commercial business in the town of Pamelia, but where you live needs a fire wall separation, like a concrete wall. Long-Park Tire has three different rooms that would qualify as residential,” he said.

Long-Park Tire is a temporary living arrangement, Mr. Longway said. He plans eventually to move into a house now under construction at the subdivision he owns on Liberty Avenue north of Route 342.

“I have a brand new home at the end of the street that I haven’t sold,” he said. “Normally my wife comes up from July and stays until October, but she’s not coming up, and that’s why it was no big deal to finish the house.”

Mr. Longway plans to live at Long-Park Tire in the meantime.

“I have my suitcase and a bed there, and I eat at Longway’s Diner,” he said.

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