Charleston City Councilman Dean Riegel, who represents the Church Creek area of West Ashley, has been living in Summerville for the past seven months after he sold his home in his district last year.
Without a residence in District 10, Riegel appears to be in violation of a city law that states elected council members "must be a resident of the district during the entire term of office."
Riegel sold his house on Virginia Oak Court on Sept. 29 for $435,000. On Friday, he said he moved out of the home in January and moved into a townhome at 2603 Poplar Grove Place in Summerville that his son purchased in October for $189,545. The councilman said he has been renting the house and living there with his wife, Deborah, while he searches for another place to live in his district.
The councilman, who has served two terms since 2009, said he expects to sign a lease in that area of West Ashley within the next few weeks, before he has to file his intention to seek reelection in August.
"I will run for council in November again, but the residency requirement, I’ve talked to city legal about it. We need to certainly get that resolved," he said. "I’m sure if I have any opposition — I haven’t had any in past years — (they) may make that a concern. But I’ll have it resolved."
Riegel said they moved to the Berkeley County home in January because his son lives several houses down and can help care for his wife, who is still recovering from two complicated brain surgeries about two years ago.
He said the medical bills from her procedures also became a financial burden, which factored into his move.
"The big house on the marsh was just way, way, way too big," he said, adding that they also had to sell their condo on the Stono River.
He said it's been difficult to find an affordable rental unit in the area he represents. "Everything is $1,000, $1,100 in my district," he said of the monthly rents. "It’s obscene."
He pays the $1,300 rent in Summerville, and will continue to so his wife can live near his son. But if he pays roughly the same to rent another home in West Ashley, he said, "then I'm back to how much my mortgage was on Virginia Oak Court."
Riegel lists his profession on his City Council website as the executive vice president of business development and strategic planning for the Carolina Center for Occupational Health.
City Spokesman Jack O'Toole said Riegel told city staff about his living arrangements about a month ago.
"City legal staff reviewed the matter and advised the councilman to return to his district as quickly as possible, which he said he would do," O'Toole said.
Riegel filed a routine statement of financial interest with the State Ethics Commission on March 21 using his Virginia Oak Court address, a house he said he had already moved out of by that time.
"My campaign manager does my financial report, and that should have been changed," Riegel said. "I thought we changed it to 2117 Virginia Oak Court, my next door neighbor, because I was anticipating renting a room or something from them. But it still wouldn’t have been accurate because I am not living there."
He said he's proud of his track record as a city councilman, and that he wants to continue serving West Ashley.
"I think I’ve done a really good job representing my district and getting the building permit moratorium for the Church Creek drainage basin and representing the city of Charleston," he said. "So it's going to be what it is."