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Subpoenas issued to Fulton elections staff
by Everett Catts
January 15, 2013 05:16 PM | 3247 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Georgia secretary of state’s office has issued subpoenas to five current or former Fulton County Registration and Elections Department employees, including its interim director, in response to the state claiming the department did not submit documents in a timely manner.

The State Election Board will meet Jan. 31 at 10 a.m. to address the Fulton 2012 election cycle, when the county experienced problems. Hundreds of voters were allocated to the wrong districts and thousands had to vote on paper ballots despite already being registered.

“Subpoenas were issued in order to obtain documents and information that had not been provided by Fulton despite multiple requests,” Jared Thomas, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, wrote in an email. “Secretary [Brian] Kemp made a commitment to get to the bottom of Fulton’s issues after the 2012 election cycle. This hearing is will give Fulton the opportunity to address these issues.”

Subpoenas were issued to interim Director Sharon Mitchell and fellow employees Dwight Brower, Pamela Coleman and Ralph Jones and former Director Sam Westmoreland. Westmoreland has not yet been served with his, Thomas wrote.

Through county spokeswoman Alicia Phillips, Mitchell released a statement in response to the subpoenas being issued.

“The [department] has complied fully with inspectors from the Georgia secretary of state’s office, even in the midst of conducting last week’s special election. The Secretary of State’s office has provided numerous requests for documents,” Mitchell said. “The department ... has provided or is working to provide every document requested that is in the possession of our staff. Their inspectors have been welcomed in our offices and have been onsite as recently as yesterday, Jan. 14. Our staff is focused on serving the citizens of Fulton County with professional and well-executed elections conducted in compliance with all applicable laws.”

The county also released a statement from David Walbert, the attorney representing Fulton elections.

“It was unfortunate that the Secretary of State’s office waited until December to request the [department] to produce documents related to the July 31 primary election, which had occurred four months earlier,” Walbert said. “Nonetheless, the department’s staff members have made every effort to comply with requests that change almost daily. Secretary of state’s investigators have been allowed to use the county’s offices repeatedly for interviews and information, and we have been in continual communication with their chief investigator. We will continue to cooperate fully work with them in advance of the Jan. 31 State Election Board hearing.”

The subpoenas come at a time when the department has had multiple problems.

Earlier this month, two members of the Fulton elections board, William Riley and chair Roderick Edmond, announced their resignations Jan. 3 and 11, respectively, effective when a replacement for each would be found.

In September, Westmoreland resigned as director from jail and Mitchell was promoted to interim director after Westmoreland was arrested for DUI, violating his probation for previous DUIs.

Two months later, the State Election Board sent letters of instruction, official warnings stating the county violated state rules, for twice mailing 226 residents incorrect absentee ballots during the 2010 gubernatorial election.

The board also punished the county for hand-delivering an absentee ballot to a man after he said he did not get one, which is against state elections laws. Seven other charges were dismissed by the board.

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