Incumbent Milledgeville City Councilman Richard “Boo” Mullins Jr. is qualified to seek re-election to the District 5 post following a hearing and subsequent ruling issued Monday afternoon.
“Having heard and considered the evidence submitted by the parties at the said hearing, together with the applicable law, I find Mr. Mullins to be qualified as a candidate for Milledgeville City Council, District 5, in the General Municipal Election,” Municipal Election Superintendent Patti Rushin wrote in her decision letter following Monday’s hearing at City Hall.
Pamela K. Beer, one of the qualified District 5 Council hopefuls running for the seat, submitted a letter and documentation earlier this month detailing her issue with Mullins’ qualification for another term. In Beer’s challenge letter filed Tuesday, Sept. 10, she stated Mullins “has committed election fraud and was sentenced as a result, and therefore is not qualified to seek re-election.”
At Monday’s hearing, Beer presented documents and referenced state laws to support her argument. Beer represented herself while Donald Oulsnam of Frier & Oulsnam represented Mullins. Rushin received legal counsel from William Noland of Childs & Noland.
“The hearing was held professionally and more than ample time was given to anyone who had anything to say. Overall, I can’t say I’m surprised at the decision although I think it may have followed the letter of the law but did not follow the spirit of the law,” Beer said after learning of the hearing’s outcome. “I have self-satisfaction that I acted on my feelings of outrage. Even if you don’t prevail, it doesn’t mean you have to give up. It doesn’t mean I will not strive to be elected and make sure the people get the most uncompromised moral representation they can get.”
Beer’s letter of challenge cited a May 24, 2006 State Election Board ruling finding probable cause that Mullins violated several election code provisions during candidacy for re-election in November 2005.
According to the letter, administrative law judge Stephanie M. Howells conducted a May 15-16, 2007 hearing at the Baldwin County Courthouse. After the hearing, Howells concluded that Mullins committed three violations of election code by unlawfully assisting Willie Ford Jr. in preparing his absentee ballot, unlawfully possessed Ford’s ballot and paid Ford to vote for him on the ballot with “five dollars for beer,” the decision stated.
The State Attorney General’s office failed to prove any sort of conspiracy to commit the violations or any signs of voter intimidation.
Howells’ Aug. 6, 2007 decision recommended that Mullins be required to pay $2,500 per violation plus investigative costs totaling $7,500.
The 2007 decision also resulted in Mullins’ campaign worker Larry Simmons paying a $2,500 fine for each of his eight violations including possessing and aiding in the filling out and mailing absentee ballots of several voters.
William A. Prior Jr., chief judge of the Superior Court of Baldwin County, Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit, issued an order June 16, 2008, affirming the decision by the State Election Board and supporting all findings.
“I think the intention of the statute was to make sure citizens have the best chance of well representation in their government,” Beer said, “but the bottom line is we all know Mr. Mullins committed election fraud and that won’t change no matter the decision from the hearing.”
Under the Georgia Election Code regarding the disqualifications for holding state and county elective office, a person is ineligible to hold any civil office if he or she has “been convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude.”
“I think it’s clear that Mr. Mullins has not been convicted of any felony involving moral turpitude. He has been convicted and sentenced for fraudulent violation of election laws. This was an administrative proceeding ... Georgia law does not allow disqualification of any candidate based upon a civil proceeding,” Oulsnam said during the hearing. “Mr. Mullins has been a [City Councilman] for the past 13 years, and the reason he hasn’t been removed from office is because he is still qualified to hold office.”
Rushin said the decision rendered was based solely on the evidence adduced at the hearing and the legal standard.
“There is no evidence that Mr. Mullins was convicted and sentenced of anything. The proceeding instituted against Mr. Mullins by the State Board of Elections was civil in nature and did not, nor could it, result in a conviction,” Rushin said. “The fact that it was appealed to Superior Court and affirmed does not change the civil nature of the proceeding.”
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