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Lovejoy Council accepts mayor's resignation

A Lovejoy City Councilmember voted against accepting the mayor's resignation, Monday, saying he wanted allegations of voter fraud resolved, and not "swept under the rug."

Longtime Mayor Joseph Murphy resigned last week, and agreed to never again seek elected office. In exchange, Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson agreed to stop a special grand jury investigation into voter fraud allegedly involving Murphy and several of his relatives.

Lawson declined to discuss details of the investigation because charges are not being filed.

As a formality, the council met in an emergency session to vote to accept the resignation. Mayor Pro Tem Bobby Cartwright said, Friday, that it is in Murphy's best interest for the resignation to be accepted.

But not everyone on the council agreed. Post 1 Representative Tommy Green said, Monday, that his dissenting vote has more to do with finding answers than sending someone to jail.

"This has nothing to do with Joe," he said. "Once we accept the resignation, this goes away. We'll never really, truly know what's happened, and I have a problem with that. I will not accept this resignation."

As long as questions remain, Green said, there will always be doubt.

"I would have liked to see the grand jury investigation completed," he said. "Do it right. I hate what this has done to our city. We are charged with serving the public trust. This doesn't do anything to restore trust in public government."

Councilmembers Rebekah Holland Wright and Marci Fluellyn voted without comment to accept the resignation. Cartwright, as acting mayor, did not cast a vote. Murphy did not attend the meeting.

Cartwright asked for public comments, but none of the handful of residents who turned out, spoke on the matter. One woman, who did not want to be identified, said after the meeting that "concerned citizens of Lovejoy are very distressed and upset."

Green said Murphy's name will be on the ballot, Nov. 8, because the ballots have already been printed. He was running unopposed.

"There will be a note beside his name telling voters to not vote in that race," said Green.

It is also too late for a write-in candidate to qualify, he said. Cartwright will serve out Murphy's term, which ends Dec. 31. A special election could be held as early as March. Cartwright is expected to run for mayor.

Murphy has long been a controversial figure in local politics. He was fired as assistant director of Clayton County Community Development under allegations he signed off on building permits without inspecting work done by companies to which he was financially connected.

Murphy came under criticism in June when it was revealed that construction of the Lovejoy public safety building, that bears his name, was not done through the competitive bidding process. Murphy said at that time, however, that he saved the city’s taxpayers 10 to 15 percent by not hiring a general contractor.