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Citizen will request a state investigation into councilman's residency

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A San Luis Obispo man says he'll ask the state Attorney General's office to investigate whether

SLO Councilmember Allen Settle is improperly living outside of the city in a house he owns in Arroyo Grande.

Speaking to the council April 1, retired highway patrol officer Gary Fowler said he plans to send a formal request in the coming days. In an interview, he said he would have preferred that the council launch an investigation itself, but became convinced Settle's fellow council members wouldn't pursue it after two called Fowler privately over the weekend.

"I think we all know what's going on here," he said during a public comment period at the meeting, noting that Settle's official SLO residency is occupied by student-age tenants.

Fowler accused Settle of wordplay in responses to the issue, noting that Settle has stressed that the Laguna Lake home is his "residence," but Fowler said he hadn't said the home is his "domicile"--in other words, he said Settle wasn't asserting that he lived in the home.

Settle, in response to Fowler, issued his strongest statement to date. He said he's abiding by state laws and court rulings regarding the residency requirements of elected officials and added that the SLO home is his "primary residence and domicile."

Settle has maintained that the SLO home is his official residence because he owns it, takes a property tax exemption on it, takes his mail there, and is registered to vote at the address. In an interview with New Times, however, he said he did live in the Arroyo Grande house some of the time.

Fowler's action grows out of a New Times story that noted that Settle's Laguna Lake neighbors have questioned whether he lives in his San Luis Obispo home. One close neighbor, requesting anonymity, said Settle visits regularly but doesn't appear to live in the house. The home has student-age tenants, whose cars crowd the driveway.

A New Times reporter tailed Settle after a recent City Council meeting to the Arroyo Grande home.

In an interview and at the podium, Fowler stressed that he doesn't have anything against Settle. He said he volunteered on one of Settle's campaigns, and took a constitutional law class from Settle at Cal Poly.

For him, he said, the question is about respect for the spirit and the language of the law.

"I didn't vote for him to be living out in Arroyo Grande," he said.

Fowler, a former chairman of the SLO County Commission on Aging, is also active with city advisory groups and noted that the council has been strict in enforcing residency requirements for participants on such bodies, ruling in the past that it's not enough for people to simply own businesses in SLO.

SLO's City Attorney Jonathan Lowell has described the residency requirements of council members as a gray area.

But elsewhere, the issue of residency has been a hot topic for elected officials.

In San Francisco, former city supervisor Ed Jew is facing nine state felony charges alleging he lied about his residency when he ran for office. A city action against him was dropped after he agreed to resign from his seat in January.

According to news reports, prosecutors relied on utility bills and statements from former tenants and neighbors to build their case against Jew, who is also facing unrelated federal corruption charges.

In Los Angeles, the L.A. Times ran a series of stories last year noting that a retiring county supervisor was spending her nights in a home outside of her district.

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