Residents call boardmember's eligibility into question
May 05, 2010 - Is School Boardmember Tiffany Weber-Phillips eligible to serve on the board? Each side of the coin shows two very opposing answers to the question.
On one side, she and husband Matt Phillips call their house on Park Island their "homestead," making Weber-Phillips a Lake Orion School District resident, and eligible to serve on the board. Weber-Phillips is a registered voter of the district, according to information on the Secretary of State's Website.
On the flip side, their Lake Orion neighbors say the family hasn't stayed at that house for months. According to three residents in close proximity, the house is instead a cottage or vacation home – a place used for entertaining or staying for an occasional weekend and two or three weeks in the summer. The Review also received an anonymous letter stating Weber-Phillips and her family have been living at an Oxford address for at least a year.
"We've been very honest with everybody," said Weber-Phillips. "Yes, we have two homes, unfortunately."
According to Weber-Phillips, their house on Hemlock, in Oxford, has been up for sale for over five years – ever since the family moved to Lake Orion. She says at first they lived in a house on Parkview Way, with intentions of buying the place, but found property on Park Island and bought that instead.
"We purchased the home in Lake Orion five or six years ago and that's always been our residence. Everything is at that address. That's where we live," she said. "I would say we're in the Lake Orion house 90 percent of the time."
Weber-Phillips did note her husband still has an office in their Oxford house.
"He has not switched houses, so he could have the kids up there and we could stay up there," she said.
Both Weber-Phillips and her husband both say their biggest concern now is safety after learning someone's been watching them for over a year.
The school boardmember also said she thinks the anonymous letter is from one person or a group of people with a political agenda.
"I truly believe, because we're going through all these issues with schools, that somebody has a political motive and they're going to try to bring whatever they can to light," she said.
Three Lake Orion residents, living very close to Weber-Phillips' Park Island house, say the residence isn't a home at all, but a cottage where the family stays on occasion.
"I think they just stay here in the summer. They've been here a couple times (since February) and I think they rent it out in the winter. I saw (Matt) maybe a month and a half ago and I saw him this morning when I was leaving to go to work," said one neighbor.
Another said, "They don't live there, but they were out here today (Wednesday, April 5)." The neighbor also noted the family is there more often in the summer.
All three neighbors said the family stayed in their Park Island house overnight, Tuesday, May 4, and their kids got picked up for school at that bus stop Wednesday morning.
The anonymous letter, which was also sent to Superintendent Ken Gutman, School Board President Bill Walters, School Board Vice President Mary Jo Burchart, Orion Oaks Principal Brian Kaplan and Stadium Drive Principal Jesse Baker, says the family hasn't lived full-time in Lake Orion for over a year.
It stated, "…after a year's worth of observations, drive-bys and discussions with neighbors, the Phillips family is actually living – residing – (on) Hemlock, in Oxford. This home is in the Oxford Public Schools district."
The Oakland County Register of Deeds shows both Weber-Phillips' Lake Orion and Oxford residences as "homesteads," which is allowable, according to the Orion Township treasurer's office, if the family only lives in one and the other remains vacant.
For school board eligibility purposes, Weber-Phillips must be a qualified and registered elector of the Lake Orion school district.
To be qualified, Joe Rozell, of Oakland County's Elections Division, says you have to be a resident of the district for at least 30 days.
"(Your residence) is where you sleep and keep the majority of your possessions," he said.
Reporter, Lake Orion Review