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Riverdale wins injunction case; Lovejoy awaiting hearing

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

In a Monday hearing to determine the validity of the city of Riverdale's Nov. 6 election, the judge ruled in favor of the city, according to the city's attorney, Deana Johnson.

As a result, today's runoff contests between Phaedra Graham and Evelyn Wynn-Dixon for the mayor's office, and Michelle Bruce and Wayne Hall for the Ward 2 council seat will proceed as scheduled.

In Lovejoy, today's runoff between Tommy Green and Bob Lynch for the Post 1 council seat will also proceed as scheduled, even though a hearing has been set for Dec. 13 in Clayton County Superior Court to determine the validity of a challenge to the election.

The polls in Riverdale and Lovejoy will be open from 7 a.m., to 7 p.m. Registered voters in the respective cities will be able to cast ballots at 6690 Church Street in Riverdale and 2601 Steele Road in Lovejoy. Riverdale will use electronic voting machines, while Lovejoy will use paper ballots.

In court, Riverdale's attorney, Deanna Johnson, defended Bruce, Ward 4 Councilman Kenny Ruffin, and City Clerk Stephanie Thomas in a lawsuit filled by Georgia Fuller and Stan Harris, two unsuccessful candidates in the Nov. 6 elections.

The suit called for the election results to be thrown out and the scheduled runoff to be canceled. It also made claims that Bruce -- a transgender official who identifies as a woman -- had lied to the public about her gender; that Ruffin had campaigned illegally during a public event; and that Thomas -- the city's elections superintendent -- had tampered with ballots and voting equipment.

Johnson said the judge granted a "directed verdict" to the city -- or in other words -- the case against the city was thrown out for lack of evidence.

"It's pretty rare to get a directed verdict granted," said Johnson. "It's a very strong statement that [the plaintiffs] were so far from meeting their burden of proof that the defendants didn't have to show any evidence."

Johnson said the judge waived the cost of court fees for the city, but said the city, not the plaintiffs, would ultimately be responsible for the attorneys' fees. However, she said the city felt vindicated.

"It says that the city's analysis that this was not justified was agreed with by the court," said Johnson.

Fuller, Harris, and their attorney, Michael King, could not be reached for comment Monday.

In Lovejoy, despite a petition for injunction filed by Latoshia Gray -- who lost in the Nov. 6 election by one vote to Green and Lynch -- a runoff between Green and Lynch will go forward as planned.

While Gray said that having the runoff was "good all the way around" and would put the city on "their Ps and Qs," she believed that different people should be brought in to run the polling site.

"I'm surprised that, with the allegations ..., the same people are allowed to run the elections," said Gray.

Green said that despite problems in the last election, he has "been running the whole time to win. I can't concern myself with what the judge will rule," said Green. "It was clear that there were some problems last time. Ultimately, the judge will decide based on the evidence."

Lynch could not be reached for comment.