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Suspicions lead to College Park investigations

Mayor the focus of probes

A cloud of suspicion still hovers over two investigations –– sparked by a resident who lost the 2011 College Park mayoral race –– and it continues to languish over the city and Mayor Jack Longino.

Longino said he is hopeful the situation will end soon.

Roderick Gay, who was unsuccessful in his bid for mayor against Longino, prompted both inquiries.

One probe, involving a land purchase by the city, has ended with the findings of an independent investigator, but some residents apparently aren’t satisfied with the result that determined that the person from whom the city bought the property, and the mayor, are not related, eventhough they share a last name.

The other inquiry, which involves the vote count in the mayor’s race, is pending before the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, and centers on the alleged refusal of officials to allow candidates to view the 2011 election-tallying process. The second probe is still pending.

• No immediate relationship

Property owned by a Sandra Longino was purchased by the city in 2009, with the intention of it being the site of a fire station. Gay said he raised his concern to the council about speculation of a connection between Mayor Longino and former landowner, Sandra Longino. He said the concern was raised because numerous citizens reached out to him about it while he was running for mayor last year. “What was interesting, is why [we bought] land that we weren’t going to use,” he said.

During a council meeting, Longino said the investigation was spearheaded by Ward II Councilman Joe Carn. The results of the investigation, conducted by Investigative Solutions, LLC, showed that the 27 relatives and associates of Sandra Longino, did not match the 58 relatives and associates of the mayor.

“Honestly, and I truly believe on that particular investigation, they persuaded Joe Carn to get it done,” said Mayor Longino. He said the investigation is very transparent and too intrusive in some areas, and it’s upsetting that phone numbers and personal information of certain people were included.

He said the investigation results are available to the public, because he has nothing to hide. “I am seriously thinking of making a report on [the councilmembers] like that,” he said, adding that he is also upset because the council didn’t inform him about the investigation. “If it was really a concern, why wasn’t this investigation done .. years ago, when we bought the land?”

According to investigation documents, the two pieces of land are located at 1854 and 1864 Godby Road in College Park, and were purchased on March 12, 2009 for a fire station to be built there.

The mayor and council voted on the purchase, and the city invested about $300,000 for it, Longino said. Prior to the purchase, the land was assessed and the former fire chief agreed that it was a good area for a station, he explained. Current fire chief, Teresa Everett, however, does not think the land is suitable for a fire station, said Longino.

Everett did not wish to comment on the matter. Longino insisted there will be a fire station there.

Councilman Carn said an investigation was conducted because there were some questions. When asked what those questions were, he did not respond. He said the city hired an independent company to conduct the investigation. “We wanted to show people that we were completely transparent,” he said.

Carn would not comment further on the matter, and referred all questions to Interim City Manager Hugh Austin. “We own many parcels throughout the City of College Park, and we’re weighing all available options for future development, be it public or private development,” said Austin in an e-mailed statement.

• 2011 municipal election tallies

Gay said he complained to the elections division of the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office about the College Park election superintendent’s alleged refusal to allow Ward 3 Incumbent Wesley Meadows, himself, and their representatives, to view the tabulation of votes cast from the electronic voting machine and the absentee ballots.

“Under Georgia [code], willful refusal to allow the public to view any aspect of the election-tallying process is a misdemeanor,” he said. “If the finding of facts support this claim, it could raise serious doubt, enough to void the election.”

After contacting the presiding judge available for the Fulton County election, Gay said, both parties were permitted to see the results. Gay said he saw the mayoral race results, indicating that College Park Mayor Jack Longino won by 200 votes.

He said he and Meadows were not allowed to see the actual absentee ballots, though they were permitted to inspect the empty envelopes.

An election complaint was filed with the Superior Court of Fulton County, since the Secretary of State’s Office doesn’t have the jurisdiction to set an election aside, he said.

He said he is also troubled by the election process in College Park, which indicates about that 9,000 voters are registered. “Mayor and council willfully refuse to purge the untrue list as required by the city’s election ordinance, which aides ... cheating,” he added.

Mayor Longino said he has nothing to hide, and is tired of Gay’s continuos accusations against him. “He is a sore loser and is fighting for some attention,” he said. “I am tired of him getting all this publicity.”

Longino said during the election, he defeated Gay in all of College Park’s wards except for Ward 1. “You won’t catch me [in] a lie,” he insisted.

The mayor said Gay broke rules during the election. He said the city made Gay aware of the violations, though it could’ve taken more severe action.

He said one of the rules broken by Gay, included entering the polls during the election, which, he said, is illegal.

Spokesman Matt Carrothers, of the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, said the office cannot comment on the case. He said, typically, the investigation process will continue until it’s complete. The findings will then be presented to the Georgia State Election Board.

“Every case is unique,” said Carrothers. “There is no pre-determined time frame.” He said, after the case is presented to the board, it then could be referred to the Georgia Attorney General’s Office, if warranted.