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Supervisor's residence challenged

Barry DiLibero never expected that the wedding knot he tied in 1996 was going to cause him a knotty political problem - especially given the marriage has been going swimmingly.

Barry DiLibero never expected that the wedding knot he tied in 1996 was going to cause him a knotty political problem - especially given the marriage has been going swimmingly.

In 1999, he and his wife, Theresa, bought a house in West Vincent Township, opened a tag-and-title business on the first floor, and frequently stayed overnight on the second floor. Last year DiLibero, who also operates a hot-air-balloon business, decided to run for township supervisor.

After spending the princely sum of $151 on his campaign, he was declared the winner, defeating incumbent Clare Quinn by 26 votes.

But the victory party was short-lived.

The ink was barely dry on his oath of office when DiLibero learned that 77 of his new constituents in this northern Chester County community wanted him removed.

These residents were convinced that DiLibero didn't really live in the township. To prove their point, they hired a private detective to follow him for a month. When they had what they believed were the goods, they petitioned the other two supervisors to take legal action.

Last month, Chester County District Attorney Joseph W. Carroll got involved. After investigating, he filed a lawsuit in Chester County Court seeking to remove DiLibero from his seat.

His reason: DiLibero's wife lives in another township.

"There is no question that he maintains living quarters in West Vincent and stays there about half the time," Carroll said. "But the law says your domicile for legal purposes is where your spouse resides. Under the law, East Fallowfield is his domicile."

DiLibero was stunned.

But that, according to the Second Class Township Code, 53 P.S., Sections 65401 and 65403, is indeed the law.

DiLibero says he is not stepping down without a fight. He has hired a lawyer. "The D.A. is making a lot of crazy assumptions," he said. And the rest of it, he said, is just politics.

Not so, said petition signer Donna Hartnett.

"I know Barry," she said. "He is a great, fun person, but if it's not legal for him to be a supervisor, I don't think that he should be. I prefer to be represented by someone who lives here."

She said she voted for Quinn, gave money to her campaign, and would like to see her back in office. Quinn also signed the petitions.

DiLibero, 45, said that he and his wife, who also works with him in the tag-and-title business, do own a house in East Fallowfield, western Chester County.

Since it has a large garage, that's where he works on his vehicles - all of them painted red, white, and blue - and on his hot-air balloons, one of which is shaped like an American flag. But he called the house an "albatross."

"I overbuilt for the location but my wife likes it," he said. He said he would like to sell but doesn't see that happening until the market improves.

He said politics was in his blood. He grew up on a farm in a neighboring township where his father served as supervisor for 12 years.

When he decided to run for office, he ran a shoestring campaign and refused to take any donations. He recycled old political signs by turning them inside out and handwriting his message on them. He put up a Web site, and he did a lot of door-to-door campaigning.

But he was running in a year when a lot of issues were coming to a head as growth and sprawl came to the formerly rural township.

More than 200 apartments were going up in Ludwig's Corner, across the road from the horse show grounds. And many residents in the township's newest community, Weatherstone, felt their voices were not being heard, DiLibero said.

When the votes were counted, it was an upset.

DiLibero said he liked being a supervisor and sitting on that side of table. "Often I agree with the others, but sometimes I don't," he said. "I'm not a yes man."

His colleague Zoe Perkins said that she was staying neutral in the case and that it was now up to a judge to figure things out. But she said she had concerns.

"I honestly don't know where he lives, and that's difficult for me," she said. "But until somebody tells us otherwise, this man is an elected official. And we function just fine as a board."