Hinesville City Council hopeful Douglas Burgess wasn’t present for the most recent hearing regarding his eligibility to run, but the county elections board came to the same conclusion as they had before — the evidence presented showed the District 4 challenger still didn’t meet the residency requirement.
"We have determined that he is not qualified to run in District 4, based on the evidence presented," elections board Chairman Dicky Braun said after the board deliberated for about five minutes. The decision was unanimous.
The newest challenge to Burgess’ residency came from Maria Fragosa, who despite the earlier ruling still wanted to make her case before the Liberty County Elections Board members Thursday night. Fragosa said because testimony was suspended at the previous hearing and she wasn’t able to make her case, she wanted another hearing.
Burgess contested the September ruling and took his appeal to the superior court, and while waiting for that ruling the board has left his name on the ballot. County Attorney Kelly Davis said Burgess contested the ruling, saying procedural rules weren’t followed. He was notified of the next meeting by the board on Oct. 5.
Fragosa, with assistance from friend Dale Cooper and a representative of Dennis Waters Realty, presented evidence showing Burgess still occupied a residence in Allenhurst as late as December 2010. To be eligible to run in the Hinesville race against incumbent Keith Jenkins, Burgess would have had to occupy a residence in the city at least 12 months before next month’s election.
Previous evidence submitted to the board claimed Burgess was present at Allenhurst City Council meetings and accepted payment for his participation on the Allenhurst council as late as April 2011. Burgess’ detractors have said the Allenhurst charter prevents anyone who does not occupy a domicile in the city limits to serve on the council.
Burgess told the board he actually resigned from the Allenhurst City Council in March and that Allenhurst Mayor Thomas Hines "sat on the (resignation) letter" for 30 days.
Fragosa’s new documentation, provided by Kelly Clary of Dennis Waters Realty, showed Burgess rented a home on Dunlevie Road from the realty company from January 2011 to December 2011 and was behind on his rent when he moved out.
"We received a writ of possession, but he moved out voluntarily prior to serving the notice," Clary said.
She said the company conducted a move-out inspection on Dec. 2, and records show the home still had electricity at the time of the inspection.
Burgess previously told the board he has occupied a residence in Hinesville since November 2009. Water service records indicate his wife, Loretta Burgess, activated service at a Hinesville residence in December 2009.
Davis said this is not the first time Burgess’ eligibility for a public service position has been questioned by citizens.
"In 2007 when he ran for the Allenhurst City Council, he was challenged by people who said he lived in Hinesville. His Allenhurst residency was upheld by the board," Davis said.