Liberty County Superior Court Judge Jay Stewart rendered his decision in the case regarding the recall petitions filed against City of Walthourville Mayor Daisy Pray and Councilwoman Patricia Green.
On Nov. 6, plaintiffs Paulette Jamison and Anita Scurry were in court requesting that a previous dismissal on their recall petitions case be set aside and the case be re-opened. At the hearing the plaintiffs alleged that city clerk Melissa Jones committed fraud by not being certified as an elections superintendent as required by the state. They said Jones, however, served in that capacity for the city and throughout the course of the petition proceedings.
The women said they requested records from the state which showed the last person certified was former city clerk Shana Moss in 2015.
The two women stood before Judge Stewart asking him to consider throwing out the previous dismissal due to the fraud and to have the district attorney’s office to investigate Jones and Pray.
Jamison and Scurry first filed a Writ of Mandamus on May 23 citing that Jones and Mayor Pray were blocking their attempts to receive recall applications they had been requesting. The City, through their attorneys Jeff Arnold and Andrew Johnson, countered that the plaintiffs failed to request the documents in the proper manner.
On June 22, city attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s petition because the plaintiffs had received recall petitions as requested. Judge David Cavender granted the motion to dismiss on June 25.
However, the plaintiffs filed another motion to re-open on July 20. Johnson filed a motion to have the matter dismissed on Aug 9, which was granted after the city presented their findings in court. Jones, identifying herself as the election superintendent, concluded that the re-call petitions failed to meet legal requirements and proper signature quantities.
The attorneys filed a second amended motion to dismiss on Oct. 19, after the plaintiffs filed a new motion to set aside the previous dismissals based on their contention that Jones had committed fraud by not being certified. That led to the Nov. 6, hearing.
Immediately following the hearing city attorneys issued a statement saying, “Walthourville contracts with the Liberty County Board of Elections under the authority contained within § 21-2-45.
“As such, the allegations as to Ms. Jones and her lack of appropriate credentials are simply unfounded. As the Clerk of the City of Walthourville, Ms. Jones’s only credentialing requirement is that she take a course through the Georgia Secretary of State’s office every elections cycle on Qualifying Candidates. Ms. Jones last took the course in September of this year, and she scored 100% on the test afterwards. The City of Walthourville is satisfied that Melissa Jones is handling her duties legally, appropriately, and competently. “
However, the plaintiffs had said that according to state law (O.C.G.A. 21-2-101(a)) Jones should have completed the certification program within six months of Jones’ appointment to office. Jones was hired back in 2016 according to the city’s web-site.
At the Nov. 6 hearing Judge Stewart had said he would take 14 days to review state law and render a decision.
In his ruling, signed and dated Nov. 28, the Judge stated that the motion to set aside the dismissal based on the criteria presented by the plaintiffs, “is wholly inapplicable to the case at bar,” according to the court order obtained by the Courier. “Further, plaintiffs include in their instant motion new evidence comprised of allegations not previously presented to this court. A motion to set aside used to bring additional evidence before the court so as to gain a reversal in not proper.”
Johnson said the court ruling should bring the matter to an end.
“The City, its elected officials, and employees are hopeful that this matter is finally behind us,” he said in a statement to the Courier on Thursday. “After nearly six months, numerous court dates, and countless filings, the Judge made the right decision and granted our Motion to Dismiss. We maintained all along that the current pleadings were improper from the start and that nothing should not have been filed to begin with.”
However, Jamison and Scurry said they aren’t ready to put the matter to rest.
“We feel that this is a disservice to the citizens and this will not end here,” the two women said in an email to the Courier Friday morning. “And we are prepared to take this to a higher court with God protecting our fronts as well as our backs.”
Jamison and Scurry said they felt the matter of Jones not being certified at the time she was working on their recall petitions was completely overlooked.
“It seems that the violation was deliberately disregarded again, and a disservice to our citizens at every level,” the woman claimed. “Citizens, as we take this to a higher court to put other eyes on it, let us remember this as we go to the voting polls. Our children and elderly do not need this injustice.”