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Riverdale candidates challenge election results

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Two unsuccessful candidates in this month's municipal election in Riverdale have filed a joint challenge in Clayton County Superior Court, contesting the outcome of the balloting.

In the challenge, Riverdale City Councilman Rick Scoggins and Riverdale resident, Veverly Brooks, contend the results of the Nov. 3 election were manipulated to benefit incumbent Ward 3 Councilwoman Wanda Wallace and Ward 1 Councilwoman-elect Cynthia Stamps-Jones.

According to court documents, the challenge was filed in Clayton County Superior Court on Monday. Riverdale Elections Superintendent Gloria Collins, former candidate Stan Byars, Wallace, and Stamps-Jones are listed as respondents in the case.

The six-page challenge contends several times that the Nov. 3 election was "illegal and fraudulently conducted" and that Collins and poll workers "manipulated" voting machines and absentee ballots so "both Wanda Wallace and Cynthia Stamps-Jones would have the majority of votes and be declared the winners in Wards 3 and 1, respectively."

The filing also contends that Collins and poll workers "illegally permitted Stan Byars to be placed on the general election ballot as a candidate for City of Riverdale City Council." In addition, Scoggins and Brooks insist Collins unlawfully permitted Wallace to place a campaign banner on the premises of Riverdale City Hall on, and prior to, the day of the election.

According to the election results announced on Nov. 3, Stamps-Jones garnered 297 votes in the Ward 1 race, defeating Scoggins, a two-term incumbent, who had 222 votes. In the Ward 3 race, Wallace held on to her post with 278 votes, compared to 208 votes for Brooks, and 36 votes for Byars.

A Nov. 6 certification of the votes revealed that 60 votes were left uncounted on election night, leaving the final totals at Stamps-Jones, 345; Scoggins, 233; Wallace, 332; Brooks, 210, and Byars, 39. The certification revealed one write-in vote for Thomas Houston.

Riverdale City Attorney Deana Johnson said that at least some of the respondents named in the challenge were served on Wednesday night and that the city would have five days to file its answer. She said she believes Scoggins' and Brooks' challenge fails to meet the burden of proof.

"It certainly does not specify what was fraudulent or illegal, other than [commenting on] Stan Byars' candidacy," Johnson said. "They didn't challenge that and they didn't come to the election challenge we had," referring to an Oct. 30 challenge to Byars' candidacy by former Riverdale City Councilwoman Michelle Bruce.

"They had monitors [from the Secretary of State's office] there on the day of the election," Johnson continued. "We used certified election equipment from Clayton County. We used electronic voting, and that is unusual for a district of our size. A lot of cities our size still use paper ballots. I don't know what else they could have done."

Scoggins and Brooks are being represented in the challenge by Clayton County Board of Education member and attorney, Michael B. King. According to Johnson, King has filed several lawsuits against the city, and a similar election-result challenge in 2007, in which he represented Georgia Fuller and Stan Harris.

Fuller and Harris ran unsuccessfully in the 2007 municipal election for Ward 2 and Ward 4 council positions, respectively. According to Johnson, the 2007 election challenge, and a subsequent appeal, was unsuccessful.

Johnson said that a judge from outside Clayton County would be brought in to preside over the Scoggins and Brooks challenge, and that a ruling would likely be handed down prior to any candidates taking office on Jan. 1, 2010.

Stamps-Jones, who defeated incumbent Scoggins, said she believes Scoggins and Brooks are "wasting taxpayers' money on a frivolous lawsuit."

"I don't know Miss Collins or the poll workers personally," Stamps-Jones said. "I don't know why he [Scoggins] would fathom that someone would go to that extent [to manipulate the votes]. That decision has already been clearly made and he just can't digest it ... it's a selfish thing that he is doing."

Byars, whose candidacy was challenged during the election, said he believes the election challenge is a waste of taxpayer money and his time.

"This is the third go around with me and my residency," Byars said. "The first time this was investigated, I was cleared and put on the ballot ... That should have been the end of it. When does it stop?

"They [Scoggins and Brooks] have an agenda of their own and I don't know anything about it," he added. "I have been caught in the middle of it. All of this is done at the expense of the taxpayer and this is not right."

Wallace and Brooks could not be reached for comment on Thursday. Scoggins deferred comments about the challenge to King, who could not be reached on Thursday. Collins also could not be reached for comment.