Wednesday, November 14 , 2018, 3:12 pm | Fair 72º


Solvang City Council Member Resigns Amid Questions About Residency

Hans Duus announces departure during Monday night meeting

Amid questions about his place of residence, Hans Duus announced Monday night that he is resigning his position on the Solvang City Council. Click to view larger
Amid questions about his place of residence, Hans Duus announced Monday night that he is resigning his position on the Solvang City Council. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A City Council member who has moved out of Solvang following foreclosure on his house resigned Monday night after questions arose about his residency.

Councilman Hans Duus announced his resignation at the start of the council’s meeting after saying he and his wife, Carla, signed paperwork to lease a condo in Santa Maria.

He confirmed they had “lost their house a few months ago,” and said they had been staying in a Santa Maria motel “trying to figure out what to do.”

“With that rather than making a public spectacle out of things, which I believe other people wish to do, I’m submitting my resignation effective immediately,” Duus said before stepping off dais.

“This is not an easy decision, not for myself or for Carla,” Duus said, referring to his wife, who served on the Board of Architectural Review. “But it’s the right thing to do.”

Mayor Jim Richardson asked if the council could refuse the resignation, but City Attorney Dave Fleishman said it was up an individual or voters to remove a member.

“This is heartbreaking,” Mayor Jim Richardson said. 

The mayor added he was honored to serve with Duus, a renowned blacksmith.

“You’ve been behind some of the brightest things that’s happened on this council,” Richardson said. “I sit next to you and sometimes I’m amazed at what comes out of your mouth. So smart, so intelligent, so articulate that it just shocks me at time.”

The resignation came a week after City Attorney Roy Hanley, in response to a question from a resident, said that Duus could continue to serve on the council since the code uses the term “resident” but legally means “domicile.”

“Domicile, according to the law, is a state of mind, not a location,” Hanley said. “This has been litigated many times over the years, and the answer is clear in the law. Once you’ve established a domicile in a place, until you change that domicile, you remain domiciled in that place.”

He said a person can have many residences, but one domicile.

“Mr. Duus doesn’t have to resign and there’s nothing illegal about him continuing to serve and continuing vote as long as he has the present intention to maintain his domicile in Solvang even if he has to reside someplace else,” Hanley said. “I know it sounds lawyerly and goofy but that’s the way the law actually works.”

Speculation about Duus’s residence on Laurel Ave. began after the posting of an eviction notice on the property, listing them as defendants for a July 19 eviction. MTI Capital Inc. was named as plaintiff in the Santa Barbara County civil case. 

The eviction notice came after the property sold May 31 in a trustee sale for $456,000, according to Santa Barbara County Assessor's Office.

The 1,737-square-foot single-family residence built in 1952 has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and has been listed by Duus on his City Council paperwork as his place of residence since at least 2012.

The legal actions had raised questions about the place of residence of Duus, who had served on the Solvang City Council since 2008, and last fall narrowly won re-election to his third term. 

A resident, Fred Kovol, questioned at the Aug. 14 whether Duus’ participation would make all actions taken by the council null and void and if he is illegally receiving money from the council. 

Kovol called for Duus to resign.

“This is a serious situation here. I feel for him. I can put my feet in his shoes, but regardless it’s not to be happening,” Kovol said. 

The council added an item to Monday night’s agenda to discuss what process to use to fill the vacancy. Options include appointing the next higher vote-getter from the 2016 election, taking applications or holding a special election, typically a costly alternative.

After reminding those at the meeting about Solvang’s history, Duus urged the council to take steps to make it more affordable to live in the city.

“You don’t want the town to go away because it has become a retirement community and it will,” he said. “You have to keep the young families in here. You have to keep the middle class in here.”

Duus noted Solvang remains his hometown.

“I was born and raised here. And hopefully will come back here to die some day,” he said. “You’re not getting rid of me that easily.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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