ORMOND BEACH, Fla. – The wife of a tea party favorite in Maine’s hotly contested governor’s race has been notified her homestead application here may be illegal.
Following an investigation by Volusia County Property Appraiser Morgan Gilreath, Ann LePage, wife of Maine Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage, was notified by certified letter mailed Thursday that she cannot have a homestead exemption here and in Maine, which could be a violation of state statutes.
Gilreath’s findings were supported in part by a mortgage document called a second-home rider, signed by both Ann and Paul R. LePage. The rider indicated the property was a second home and not intended as a permanent residence. Ann LePage’s name is the only one on the deed,
She filed for a $50,000 homestead exemption here last year, while also having homesteaded property at 438 Main St. in Waterville, Kennebec County, Maine. She could face prosecution of a misdemeanor of the first degree under Florida law, punishable by a year in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. Gilreath said earlier that prosecution is rare.
She has 30 days from receipt of the letter to repay back taxes and penalties of $1,400 or provide proof of residency.
“I have not seen the letter,” LePage said when contacted by phone Thursday, but indicated she would contact Gilreath for an e-mailed copy. Gilreath said later he sent a copy but LePage did not answer an additional call from a reporter.
Gilreath’s letter says Ann LePage bought a house at 558 Woodgrove St. in Ormond Beach on Dec. 10, 2008. A mortgage document included the reference to a second home, which Gilreath said “does not sound like the borrowers or the bank or perhaps even the insurance company intended for this to be a primary permanent residence.”
In his letter to LePage, Gilreath refers to a “circumstance of Ms. LePage’s mother’s health” and a provision in the statutes that would allow two exemptions, if one is for the permanent residence of a dependent. He declined to give further details.
In a Bangor Daily News interview, Paul LePage indicated his wife lived part of the year in Florida caring for her ailing mother for two years, before buying the Ormond Beach home. The candidate is ahead in polls against his opponents in the governor’s race, Democrat Libby Mitchell and Democrat-turned-Independent Eliot Cutler.
Gilreath’s investigation revealed Ann LePage had a Florida driver’s license and voter registration listing her at 801 Fourth St., Bunnell, Flagler County, before she bought the Ormond Beach house. She voted twice in Flagler County. A Maine newspaper reported her Maine driver’s license was re-issued earlier this year.
Maine newspaper reports indicate the couple’s two children attended Florida colleges and the parents may have paid in-state tuition for daughter Lauren at Florida State University. College documents indicate students who depend on out-of-state parents for support are presumed to be legal residents of the same state as their parents. A call to the FSU registrar was not returned Thursday.
Story courtesy of The Daytona Beach News-Journal.