George filed suit against Jones in April, challenging Jones' eligibility. Jones has lived in Lee's Summit for a number of years working as regional director for the Small Business Administration. George claimed that Jones could not claim he was a Lawrence County resident for a year prior to the election, as the law requires.
The case was heard in Jasper County Circuit Court on May 21. George was represented by attorneys Bruce Copeland and Jeremy Brown. Jones was represented by attorneys Phillip Glades and Anita Oakes from the Glades Law Firm in Joplin.
Judge Crane confirmed George's assertion that Jones lived in Lee's Summit for work and was a registered voter in Jackson County.
"The court finds that Jones maintained a physical residence in Mt. Vernon whenever he left Lawrence County for his profession," Crane wrote in her ruling, noting Jones continues to own real estate in the county.
The judge wrote the case boiled down to the definition of "residence" in the state constitution.
Both sides argued their case based on provisions in the landmark 1972 ruling King v. Walsh. The King ruling defines residence as "The place with which a person has a settled connection for certain legal purposes, either because his home is there or . . . that place where a man has his true, fixed and permanent home and principal establishment, and to which whenever he is absent he has the intention of returning."
In reviewing evidence presented, Crane concurred with part of George's view but not the significance of it.
"The court finds that Jones' bodily presence is in Jackson County," the judge wrote. "However, the court finds that Jones did not exercise the intention to abandon Lawrence County as his residence."
The judge noted that Jones pays real estate and personal property taxes in Lawrence County, engages in hobbies in the county, has his hair cut in Mt. Vernon, attends and contributes to a Mt. Vernon church, attends Rotary Club and sustains membership in the Mt. Vernon American Legion Post, works at a stand selling fireworks in Mt. Vernon annually, has a bank account in Mt. Vernon and sustains his subscription to the Lawrence County Record.
Additional testimony was provided by longtime friends of Jones and family members who supported the defendant's intention to return to Lawrence County once the political appointment to the Small Business Administration concluded.
"The court therefore finds that Jones did not intend to abandon his Lawrence County residency, and likewise, did not intend to establish his residency in Jackson County," Crane wrote.
The judge further looked at the 2002 Missouri Supreme Court ruling Lewis v. Gibbons, which states the point of the residency clause is to determine government officials are "sufficiently connected to their constituents to serve them with sensitivity and understanding."
"The connections noted above along with the people that Jones has had decades of relationships within Lawrence County, more than sufficiently connects him to his Lawrence County constituents," Crane wrote.
The ruling in favor of Jones, the defendant, left George with the bill as the party who filed the suit with the court costs. Additional evidence prompts new trial for Mo. man