Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeff Turner leads his first county commission meeting Jan. 2. Questions are now being raised about whether he actually lives in the county, which would affect his eligibility to hold public office.
ATLANTA The issue of whether Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeff Turner lives in the county may soon be settled once and for all.
Turner’s residency has been a question of, “Does he or doesn’t he?” for awhile. He once claimed neighboring Henry County as his place of residency, but now says he has lived in Clayton County since 2010.
Records tie him to both counties at various times in recent years, but he is registered to vote in Clayton County and he listed a Riverdale apartment as his address in federal bankruptcy filings.
But the Clayton County NAACP chapter had questions and that led it to seek an investigation by Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office.
So Turner now must answer to the state on his residency.
“All I can say is we do have an open investigation into that matter,” said Secretary of State spokesman Chris Perlera.
The Secretary of State’s Elections Division opened the investigation Friday, and investigator Adrick Hall was assigned to look into the matter, according to a state complaint and investigation detail form. The document shows Clayton County NAACP President Synamon Baldwin asked for the investigation.
Baldwin is listed as the complainant in the report.
“Complainant reported that Clayton County Commissioner Chairman Jeffrey Turner provided false information on his candidacy affidavit when he qualified to run for office,” the state’s investigation detail form states. “Specifically, the complainant alleged that Commissioner Turner provided false information about how long he had been a resident of Clayton County.”
A candidate for commission chairman must live in the county for at least a year before his or her election.
The state will look into whether Turner violated Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 21-2-565, which states Turner could be charged with “the offense of false swearing” if investigators determine he did not live in Clayton County long enough to run for chairman.
If the investigation leads to that conclusion, the findings would then be turned over to Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson’s office for prosecution, according to the code section.
Turner would have to pay a fine of up to $1,000, or have to spend up to five years in jail if he is found guilty of false swearing, according to state law, according to Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 16-10-71.
The new commission chairman asserts he did nothing wrong.
“I am, and have been for quite some time, a resident of Clayton County, and I’m gong to leave it in God’s hands,” Turner said. It the same assertion he made to the Clayton News Daily earlier this month when he was asked about his residency.
Turner just took office last month, after defeating two-term chairman Eldrin Bell in the Democratic Party run-off last summer and after he ran unopposed in the General Election in November.
Although no one publicly challenged his residency status during the commission chairman campaign, he has faced questions in recent weeks about whether he still lives in Henry County, or if he legally moved to Clayton County.
Turner said these questions amount to a “personal attack” against him. He pointed out the fact that the challenges to his residency status are being made now rather than last summer, when he qualified to run for the chairman’s seat.
“Why else would it just be happening now?” he said.