Residency issues surface for Palmetto councilman

Questions have arisen about Palmetto City Councilman Leon Sumlin’s place of residence in the city and whether he currently resides in Palmetto. Another question involves the homestead exemption filed with Fulton County on a home where he might not live. The questions surfaced last week as Sumlin is running for re-election in November. Sumlin responded to the allegations, indicating that his primary residence is in Palmetto and that he will pay the penalties related to any inaccuracy found to exist with homestead exemption filing.

Information received by The Citizen led to a Georgia open records request to the City of Palmetto for Sumlin’s county paperwork pertaining to his homestead exemption filing, a record of the electric and water usage for the past few years at the Carlton Road address listed on the filing and similar utility records for his Rhae Street residential property.

Though Sumlin owns four residential properties in Palmetto, documents showed that Sumlin listed the Carlton Road address as his place of residence, thereby having that address stated as the location for the homestead exemption.

City documents showed essentially no water or electric usage at the Carlton address for the past few years, yet at another of Sumlin’s properties, the one on Rhae Street, there has been significant water and electric usage for the past several years. That usage dropped off somewhat in late 2009, nearly a year after Sumlin purchased a home in the Canongate area of unincorporated Coweta County. Coweta County water records beginning in May 2009 show water usage indicating that the residence was being occupied.

Sumlin responded to questions posed by The Citizen, noting that he and his wife moved from the Carlton Road residence to the Rhae Street residence approximately 10 years ago. Sumlin said that he did not change the homestead exemption address with Fulton County until recently when the issues of his residency came up. Sumlin said he also changed the address on his drivers license and voter registration form to the Rhae Street address.

Sumlin said he had no intention and no need to be deceptive about the homestead exemption issue, adding that he would pay any penalty that might be forthcoming as a result of having the wrong address listed for the homestead.

And pertaining to whether he and his wife live in Palmetto, Sumlin said their primary residence is the Rhae Street property. Sumlin said his wife on occasion stays at the Portage Lane residence in unincorporated Coweta County, as does he though on a more infrequent basis.

Sumlin said that he is still working on the Portage Lane residence and, at some point, might rent it, sell it or retire there. Sumlin said he owns a total of four other residential properties, all located in Palmetto.

And concerning the issue of his running for re-election, Sumlin said, “I think I meet all the qualifications to be on the council.”

Sumlin was appointed to the City Council in May 2003 to fill a vacant seat and was elected for his first term in 2004.

For its part, the City of Palmetto is responding to the allegations per state requirement by contacting the Georgia Elections Commission and conducting an inquiry into the matter.