Adrian Hayes-Santos defeated Jim Konish for the District 4 seat on the Gainesville City Commission in March 2016. He won by a 3,000 vote margin, claiming more than 80 percent of the vote.
Despite his victory, the city commissioner spent Monday on trial, arguing if he was even eligible for the seat in the first place.
Commissioner Hayes-Santos defended his role in court after a lawsuit was filed, claiming Hayes-Santos did not live in District 4 long enough to be eligible to run for the seat, as is required by Gainesville city ordinances.
The non-jury trial was held at the Alachua County Courthouse Family and Civil Justice Center under presiding Judge Monica Brasington.
The lawsuit was filed by his former opponent Konish, who is seeking a ruling from the judge stating that Hayes-Santos is not a qualified candidate for the seat. A ruling against Hayes-Santos could potentially result in his removal from the commission.
The particular issue addressed at the trial was over Hayes-Santos’ residence in the time period between May 25, 2015, and Dec. 14, 2015. Hayes-Santos testified that he rented out a room from his friend, Zach Woodruff, at 1125 Northeast Fifth Ave. during this time.
The affidavit of residency that Hayes-Santos filled out to run for city commissioner listed this address, which qualified him as living in District 4.
Konish and his attorney, Stephen Turnage, claim that Hayes-Santos did not have a permanent residence at this location and presented evidence at trial to prove this position.
“I didn’t see him there,” Konish said in an interview post-trial. “Another neighbor didn’t see him there as well. Everyone they called was a friend of his (Hayes-Santos), and so they have all gotten together to try to put together a story.”
Konish took the witness stand and discussed how he never saw Hayes-Santos’ blue Volkswagen in the driveway of the Woodruff residence where Hayes-Santos claimed to be living.
He also testified that he managed the property next door and would frequently come by the property to check on tenants and maintenance and never saw Hayes-Santos at the Woodruff residence.
“I was over there frequently, and I never saw him until the heat was on, and then I saw him a lot,” Konish said.
The plaintiff’s attorney also called Lydia Floyd, a neighbor of Woodruff who lived down the street, to testify that she never saw Hayes-Santos’ car parked in the driveway.
Konish’s team introduced evidence showing financial records, including a Campus USA account, which was registered to Hayes-Santos’ mother’s home and not his alleged residence at 1125 Northeast Fifth Ave.
When Hayes-Santos was called to the stand, he fielded questions from both attorneys about evidence showing his financial records, text messages, phone tower location records, housing searches and his decision to run for city commissioner.
Hayes-Santos’ mother, her neighbors and his roommate were called by the defense and testified that he had not lived at his mother’s since 2006 and that he did, in fact, live at Woodruff’s residence.
The defendant’s attorney presented a 20-page document of text messages between Hayes-Santos and Woodruff, many pertaining to typical roommate discussions, such as packages delivered, rent checks and utilities.
The court accepted evidence of AT&T phone records, showing that Hayes-Santos’ phone tapped into towers closest to his supposed residence the most. The evidence is still under review by the judge and could still be struck down this week based on lack of expert testimony and reliability.
“The best declaration of residency is where he [Hayes-Santos] says it is,” said Nicolas Harvey, attorney for Hayes-Santos. “Of the nine witnesses that came forward, they actually saw inside the house and saw what was going on there.”
“We believe that the overwhelming evidence proves I lived at 1125 NE fifth Ave.,” Hayes-Santos said post interview. “This is just a conspiracy theory that he [Konish] thought up and is using the courts to drive up my legal costs.”
Judge Brasington has given both parties until Friday to present her with proposed judgments. She said she hopes to decide on the case by early next week.