BURGAW, NC (WWAY) -- For the first time in 10 years the town of Burgaw has a new mayor, but on the day he was sworn in some residents are questioning whether he has a legal right to represent their town.
Tuesday night, attorney Kent Harrell presented the Burgaw commissioners with a petition signed by 53 residents questioning the residency of Mayor Eugene Mulligan.
"I've lived in Burgaw now for 22 years and it was love at first site,” said Mulligan.
Shortly after Mulligan defeated long time Burgaw Mayor Pete Cowan in the November elections a petition started circulating questioning Mulligan's true place of residence.
WWAY reached out to a number of petitioners who said they signed at the request of Cowan.
"He told me about it and asked me if I would be willing to sign this petition that an inquiry would be made because he had a feeling or information that Mr. Mulligan maybe was not a resident of Burgaw,” said petitioner Stanley Farrior.
According to voter registration records, Mulligan is a resident of Burgaw with a home on Dudley Street. However, Mulligan says he understands where his doubters are coming from because his wife and daughter live in Hampstead so that his daughter can attend Topsail schools.
"Although I own a house in Hampstead I don't live in Hampstead," Mulligan said. "I was fortunate enough rent a house in Burgaw and intend to live here for as long as I can."
To verify his address, WWAY went to Mulligan's Burgaw home, and though the lights were on no one answered the door.
"Since there's some concern about this and maybe some doubt about whether he is a resident or not, it should be looked into by the Board of Elections," Farrior said. "Certainly if he is qualified resident, he won the election to become the new mayor of Burgaw."
The Burgaw Board of Commissioners tabled the matter until their January meeting, but asked that in the meantime Mulligan simply provide them with proof of residence.
WWAY asked Cowan about the petition, but he said he was not involved with it.