PARKERSBURG - A candidate for the Parkersburg City Council is questioning his opponent's residency and requesting action by city council.
Jim Knapp, Republican candidate for council's 8th District, sent a letter to members of city council last week inquiring about the residency of his Democratic opponent, the incumbent John Rockhold.
"I am making a formal inquiry concerning Section 10.112 of the City Charter - Residency Defined, as it relates to the amount of time Councilman John Rockhold III resides at 1606 24th St. The Charter states that 'he occupies that residence for a majority of each calendar year,'" Knapp stated in a letter to council members dated Sept. 26. "I also question his continued residency at the time of his announcement to run for re-election in the upcoming election, in accordance with the City Charter Section 2.105."
Photo by Jody Murphy
Parkersburg City Councilman John Rockhold’s residency has become an issue. Rockhold’s opponent for city council District 8, Jim Knapp, a former city councilman, has requested an inquiry by city council to review Rockhold’s residency. Rockhold was married last June to a woman who retained her primary residence in Pleasants County.
The residency issue was raised by The News and Sentinel last summer when Rockhold married a Pleasants County resident. Rockhold acknowledged splitting time between the two residences, but said his primary address on 24th Street would not change.
According to the city charter, the term "resident of the city" means the individual has their primary residence located within the city limits.
"That he occupies that residence for a majority of each calendar year, that the West Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, West Virginia Department of Tax and Revenue recognize that location as his legal residence, and that he is a qualified voter of the city of Parkersburg," the charter states.
"I know where I live and where I pay taxes," Rockhold said. "There are times I am up there."
Rockhold said he has been staying in Pleasants County recently because his father-in-law is dying.
"I think you have to take care of family," said Rockhold, who has seldomly missed a council or committee meeting, including those of which he is not a member.
Knapp is hanging his hat on the section that states council members must live the majority of the year in Parkersburg.
"The other qualification is once elected you have to stay in that district," he said.
Council President Tom Joyce said he needed to consult with City Attorney Joe Santer to see what, if anything, needs to be done. Santer said city council is the sole determiner of the qualifications.
"I suggested to (City Clerk) Connie Shaffer she pass it on to council," Joyce said.
Knapp is concerned council will refuse to address the request.
"If he has enough friends on there I doubt it will ever come up," he said. "The mayor and council should enforce the city charter."
Knapp, who maintains property near Rockhold's residence, said he often walks by Rockhold's home and seldomly sees him home.
"The most I ever saw him there was three nights in a row," Knapp said.
Knapp also said he checked with Rockhold's neighbors on 24th Street.
"One told me that's where he used to live. Another said they don't see him and another said he's not there," Knapp said.
The News and Sentinel visited Rockhold's neighborhood Wednesday. While a few people were home, two residents who lived across the street reported seeing the councilman on a nearly daily basis.
"I see him just about every day," said a neighbor who asked not to be identified.
The person was asked if they saw Rockhold enough to consider him a resident.
"Yes," the person replied.
Rockey Kerns also said he considered Rockhold a resident.
"I see him about every day," he said. "I saw him this morning."