JONESBORO — Allegations of election irregularities in Forest Park, John Lampl’s return to city government and a tied runoff decided by a single vote in Morrow, and confusion over Jonesboro mayoral candidate qualifications top 2019’s government stories in Clayton County.
Forest Park saw numerous complaints about its elections this year, starting with candidate Patricia Manley’s bid for the Ward 3 Council seat. Elections Supervisor Lois Wright said Manley had qualified but incumbent Councilwoman Sandra Bailey said Manley did not live in the district and filed a challenge. A Sept. 12 hearing was postponed a day when Manley failed to show up. Bagley also alleged Manley’s check for qualifying fees had bounced. After the Sept. 13 hearing, Manley told the News she’d gotten behind on the rent after falling ill and Wright found her qualified to run. On Sept. 23, as Bagley prepared to file a court challenge, Wright reversed her decision. Wright said Manley’s check had bounced Sept. 9 but that a Sept. 16 letter from Heritage Bank stated there had been sufficient funds Aug. 23 when Manley had filed for candidacy. Bagley went on to lose reelection to Hector Gutierrez in what appeared to be a wide 221-132 margin on Election Night. The official results, 140-132 for Gutierrez, changed significantly after Wright said she’d temporarily misplaced a key to an absentee ballot box that allegedly had its lock cut off by someone in Public Works. Wright has refused to comment on the specifics of where that event took place. The Ward 3 results, as well as those of a bitter Ward 4 race that challenger Yasmin Julio lost to incumbent Latresa Akins-Wells, are being contested in Clayton County Superior Court. A ballot measure on whether to pass a freeport tax exemption for distribution warehouses is also under State Elections scrutiny after a city-approved flyer aimed at passing the measure was handed out at several council meetings and inside the polling place on Election Day. That measure passed 1,165 to 343.
MorrowMorrow’s former city manager, John Lampl, who was indicted in 2011 by a grand jury on corruption charges related to the failed Olde Towne Morrow development and who had pleaded no contest to five of the charges in 2017, led a successful bid to unseat Mayor Jeff DeTar. The race saw a coalition between Lampl, Van Tran and restaurateur Khoa Vuong, which drew strong support from Morrow’s Vietnamese community. Lampl won and Tran unseated longtime Councilwoman Jeanell Bridges in the primary. Vuong and incumbent Councilman Larry Ferguson tied 300-300 in the runoff. A single absentee vote ensured Vuong’s victory.
JonesboroJonesboro hardware store owner Billy Jarrett Miller, who was upset over business licensing and zoning changes when the city incorporated his property, tried to qualify for the mayor’s race but was turned away at City Hall. took his case to Clayton County Superior Court with the help of attorney Vincent Russo, the same attorney who is handling a case about the State of Georgia’s paper ballot issues. Judge Shana Rooks issued a temporary restraining order and told the city to reopen qualifying. The city then asked Judge Aaron Mason to dismiss the case, citing sovereign immunity and lack of service. Mason questioned the city’s inconsistent qualifying deadlines and ordered that Miller be allowed to file his candidacy. Miller went on to lose to longtime incumbent Mayor Joy B. Day, 259-107. Day’s other challenger, Councilman Alfred Dixon, initially had qualified but was later dropped when City Manager Ricky L. Clark, Jr, who also serves as elections superintendent, found a discrepancy between Dixon’s driver’s license and voter registration. Dixon said he’d had his wallet stolen, had never updated his old address on his license, and blamed a computer update from Department of Driver Services to Elections and Registration for making it appear that he lived outside of Jonesboro. Dixon tried to run a write-in campaign but had not qualified to do so as required by Georgia elections law.