Judge rules Dugan is a Bon Aqua resident based on voting records, cannot run for Dickson judge

A Dickson County judge ruled Thursday that attorney Mitch Dugan is a resident of Lee Brown Branch Road in Bon Aqua, making him ineligible to be on the Aug. 7 ballot for Dickson Municipal Court judge. In making his ruling on Dugan’s lawsuit against the Dickson County Election Commission, Chancellor Robert Burch said that records show Dugan voted at the precinct for Bon Aqua in 2008, 2010 and 2012, each time signing the voter roll to attest under penalty of perjury that he resides at the Lee Brown Branch Road address that was listed on his voter registration. “Mr. Dugan would not commit a felony” by voting in a precinct in which he did not live, Burch said in his ruling. “Mr. Dugan obviously is a resident of Lee Brown (Branch) Road.” Dugan admitted to the Dickson County Election Commission that he did not change his voter registration until March 28, even though he asserts that he has lived on Lake View Drive in Dickson for at least seven years. But Dugan never made any public statement regarding the record of him voting in an improper precinct, other than saying what happened prior to Aug. 7, 2013, is irrelevant. When incumbent Dickson Judge Reese Holley challenged Dugan’s eligibility to run based on not meeting the requirement to have lived in the city of Dickson for at least a year prior to the election, the commission voted to reject Dugan’s petition and a later attempt to rescind that decision failed on a tie vote. Jason Holleman, Dugan’s attorney, argued Thursday morning that there is “good evidence, strong evidence, persuasive evidence” that Dugan has lived in the city of Dickson for a number of years, but only the year immediately prior to the election is relevant. Responding for the election commission, Kirk Vandivort said Dugan’s evidence of residency is contradicted by the official records, including not only the voting record but Dugan’s driver’s license, which he admitted to changing only recently. “The commission found that troubling and the court should find that troubling,” Vandivort said. While Burch said the Dickson County Election Office gave Dugan “dramatically insufficient notice” of the challenge to his residency at its April 8 meeting, which left Dugan unable to defend his candidacy that night, the judge said the volume of evidence submitted by Dugan supports his claim that his residency has remained unchanged for at least the last four years. Burch said a “troubling factor” of the case is what he called a “dearth” of information about the status of the Lee Brown Branch Road residence. Other than the fact that Dugan still owns the residence, there was no evidence whether it is for sale, being rented or remains vacant. He said the status of that property would go toward proving whether Dugan moved to Lake View Drive “with the intent to remain.” In light of the evidence showing that Dugan’s residency has remained unchanged since at least 2010 and the fact that he signed the voter rolls to attest under penalty of perjury that his legal residence was on Lee Brown Branch Road, Burch rejected Dugan’s request for a declaratory judgment that he is a resident of the city of Dickson and an injunction preventing the election commission from keeping him off the ballot. The Dickson County Election Commission approved the ballot for the Aug. 7 election Thursday night with Holley as the only candidate for the eight-year term as Dickson Municipal Court judge.. As he left the courtroom, Dugan said he was going to discuss with his attorney whether he will appeal Burch’s ruling and seek an injunction to stop the ballot from being printed.