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Long board at odds over terms

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POSTED: May 19, 2013 10:00 a.m.

Four days before the new Long County Commission members were sworn in, the outgoing commission members on May 9 held their final meeting. At that meeting, Board of Elections Chairwoman Vanessa Cunningham discussed the terms of office for the new commissioners.
Cunningham said that when the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia invalidated the previous election, it did not specify in the court order the incoming commissioners’ terms of office. The invalidation of the first election — and subsequently ordered new election — necessitated that the outgoing board members serve an additional 4 ½ months past their initial terms. Cunningham asked whether the new board members will serve for three years and 7 ½ months to end their terms on a normal cycle, or serve full four-year terms, which would run into the next election cycle.
Allowing their terms to run into the next election cycle would create the need for a special election in addition to the regularly scheduled election.
Cunningham told the commission that the board of elections members believe there is a conflict between state and federal laws on this matter and, as a result, the members think the district court’s opinion needs to be heard to prevent additional problems. However, the board of elections cannot make that request to the court — only the county commission can, Cunningham said, and the request already should have been made.
County Attorney Jay Swindell told the commission that, in his opinion, the court intended for the new commissioners to take office and finish out the current term. He said that their terms would end with the current election cycle — just as if they had taken office in January. Swindell said the district court’s order stated that it would “not give an advisory opinion” on matters that already were in place.
After hearing both Cunningham and Swindell, the commissioners decided to take no action. Cunningham said that even though the commissioners decided not to ask the court for its opinion, the board of elections would have its attorney, Joe McGovern, draw up papers to have the attorney general’s office and the U.S. Department of Justice review the matter.

In other business:
• commissioners fielded questions pertaining to the recreation complex’s location in Ludowici and the other districts’ lack of facilities. Commission members said that the complex is on city land that is owned by the county, and building the complex in Ludowici is in the best interest of all county residents.
• several citizens complained about roads and drainage in the Crawford subdivision. The commissioners said that the county does not own the roads in the subdivision, so it is not responsible for maintenance. Road maintenance is up to local developer Bill Nutting, who was at the meeting. He said he would work with the homeowners who had complaints and asked them to contact him.
• commissioners reappointed William Miller to the Regional Development Commission.

 

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