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December 23. 2013 11:10PM

Candidate leaves race for governor over NH residency issue

New Hampshire businessman Chuck Rolecek has told a New Hampshire newspaper he will not seek the Republican nomination for governor, a decision he announced a day after the newspaper reported a home his family owns in South Carolina is listed as their primary residence.

In a text message early Monday evening, Rolecek declined an opportunity to speak to the New Hampshire Union Leader, and said he had a houseful of friends and family arriving to visit.

On Sunday, Nashua Telegraph columnist Kevin Landrigan quoted Rolecek saying "this is not the right time and this is not the right race."

Rolecek is the owner of the former C.R. Sparks restaurant in Bedford and the former owner of the Hanover Street Chop House. Last year, he sought the Republican nomination for the Executive Council, but lost in a three-way primary.

But while Rolecek was seeking high office in New Hampshire, property that his wife, Karen Rolecek, owns in Hilton Head, S.C., was listed as the primary residence of the Roleceks, according to the assessor's office in Beaufort County, South Carolina.

The designation allowed the Roleceks to save $12,400 on a $26,473 property tax bill, according to Pamela Holmes, an assistant to County Tax Assessor Ed Hughes.

The county requires a detailed procedure to receive the tax break, Holmes said.

The owner of the property must have a local address. If the owner has a motor vehicle, it must be registered in South Carolina. A South Carolina income tax return must be presented. And the owner, as well as the owner's spouse, must have a South Carolina driver's license, Holmes said.

In Landrigan's article, Rolecek said he has a financial manager and would look into the tax situation to see if everything is in order. Landrigan reported that Rolecek said the numbers that the Telegraph quoted, relying on the Beaufort County website, were inaccurate, "very disputable," and contain some important omissions.

According to the website, the ocean-front property had a tax value of $2.38 million in 2013. The website-reported taxes differ from those provided by Holmes in a telephone interview; she said the website contains some inaccurate figures.

Town records in Bedford, N.H., show that Chuck Rolecek votes there.

Both he and his wife are registered to vote in Bedford, and town records show him voting in the September 2012 primary, when he was on the ballot. Records for the November general election of 2012 were not available on Monday, Town Clerk Lori Radke said.

Records do not show Mrs. Rolecek voting in Bedford for the last three years, although she is registered to vote there.

Mrs. Rolecek registered to vote in Beaufort County in December 2012, according to the county Board of Elections and Registration.

According to Beaufort County's Holmes, a trust controlled by Karen E. Rolecek took ownership of the Hilton Head property in 2008. The property qualified for the primary resident tax exemption in 1998; the exemption expired and was re-initiated several times.

In 2011, the owner applied for the tax exemption and submitted a memorandum of understanding, which stipulated the proper paperwork would be provided the following year, Holmes said.

The tax assessor's web page asks for people to report cases of fraud related to the tax exemption. Holmes said the county has no reports dealing with Rolecek.

In a text sent at 5:15 p.m. Monday, Rolecek said "thanks but no thanks" to a request for an interview.

"Have a houseful of family/friends about to arrive," he wrote. "Time to enjoy the Holiday."

mhayward@unionleader.com


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