Protest filed over Lovejoy candidate qualifications

By Justin Boron

Lovejoy City Council applicant Angela Cannon filed a written protest with City Hall Monday that challenged Ellis Conkle's eligibility to run in the Sept. 21 special election for the city's open council seat.

Cannon's protest, which questioned Lovejoy business owner's "moral turpitude," comes after the mayor voiced his doubts about Conkle's right to claim a condominium in his business a legal residence.

"There's so much talk about him being a legal resident," Cannon said. "I want to get this done and over with.

"If he's a legal resident, I welcome him to give me a good race," she said.

Lovejoy Mayor Joe Murphy confirmed the protest and said he would contact the city's attorney to see how to proceed.

"We've never had a written protest before," he said.

Ellis Conkle's homestead exemption was filed with the Henry County's property tax office, legally putting his residence outside of Clayton County.

But Conkle claims the residential conflict should not disqualify him from the election because current Council member Robert Cartwright also entered office under the same circumstances.

Cartwright admitted to having a homestead exemption filed in Emanuel County when he entered office, adding he subsequently pulled the exemption and currently has not filed one with any county.

Based on his ability to take office legally, Cartwright said he didn't think homestead exemption would disqualify Conkle. Instead, the issue of Conkle's residence may come down to a public statement he made at January council meeting, in which he said he did not live in Lovejoy.

The state election rules for determining residence in Georgia indicate that homestead exemption can be used to define a person's legal address.

"The specific county or municipality in which a person has declared a homestead exemption . . . shall be deemed the person's residence address," the code says.

A representative of the Secretary of State's office deferred comment about residential, election qualifications in Lovejoy to the city's attorney in case possible extenuating circumstances exist.

Fincher & Hecht L.L.C., which handles legal matters for Lovejoy, could not be reached for comment Monday.