Judges: A. Taylor, Mabra, Johnson Not Qualified for House, Judicial Races
(APN) ATLANTA — Administrative law judges (ALJs) have ruled in three different residency challenge cases that three respective candidates–Anne Taylor, candidate for State House District 39 (South Cobb); Ronnie Mabra, candidate for House District 63 (Atlanta, South Fulton, Clayton, Fayette); and Clarence Johnson, candidate for Fulton County Superior Court Judge–are not qualified for office.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp must now make a final determination as to whether to disqualify them. Kemp hopes to make a decision in all three cases within the next few days, Jared Thomas, spokesman for Kemp, told Atlanta Progressive News.
In the meantime, all three candidates are proceeding with their campaigns thus far.
Ronnie Mabra failed to present a preponderance of evidence that he lives in District 63, ALJ Stephanie Howells wrote in her ruling.
Howells also ruled that Mabra’s testimony suffered from credibility issues.
Linda Pritchett, another candidate for District 63, filed the residency challenge. Mabra, Pritchett, and TJ Copeland are the three candidates for the seat, all Democrats.
Pritchett filed the challenge after she drove by Mabra’s home in Fayetteville about twenty times between December 2011 and June 2012 and never saw his car there, according to Howells’s ruling.
Pritchett also saw Mabra’s car on eight different occasions in late June at a different property owned by Mabra’s wife on State Street in Atlanta.
As for credibility, Howells took issue with Mabra’s statement, “I have been a legal resident of Fayette County for 30 consecutive years,” which Mabra wrote in his sworn affidavit and declaration of candidacy.
Howells noted that Mabra lived in a condo on 17th Street in northwest Atlanta at some point from 2007 to 2010, according to Mabra’s own testimony, and thus could not have lived in Fayette County for the last thirty consecutive years.
Howells noted that Mabra took a homestead tax exemption on the 17th street condo for a portion of time he was not living there.
Mabra purchased a home in Fayetteville from his mother in 2006, then sold it back to her in 2010. Then, in September 2011, about one year before qualifying, he listed himself as a co-owner on the home and filed a homestead tax exemption for the address.
However, Mabra has spent the night at the State Street house and receives some mail there as well.
A neighbor testified to Howells that he sees Mabra at the State Street property several times a week including morning hours and that he attended a “welcome party” that Mabra hosted at the property.
A second neighbor testified to seeing Mabra two to three times per week at the State Street property.
Mabra has filed his income taxes from the Fayetteville address, registered to vote from the address since October 2011, and has bank statements sent to the address.
“Under different circumstances, this evidence would have been sufficient to meet his burden of proof. However, both Respondent and Mrs. Mabra’s testimony suffered from credibility issues,” Howells wrote.
“Additionally, Petitioner presented sufficient evidence that Respondent and Mrs. Mabra spend a significant amount of time at the State Street Property, calling into question where they actually reside,” Howells wrote.
Incidentally, Mabra is the attorney representing Rashad Richey, an operative for the Democratic Party of Georgia, who had filed a libel suit against Andre Walker of Georgia Politics Unfiltered (GPU); GPU itself; Melanie Goux of Blog for Democracy (BFD); BFD itself; Jane Bradshaw; and several John and Jane Does. Richey has since dropped the case.
“The Administrative Law Judge made the wrong decision, but I’m confident that the Secretary of State will side with me,” Mabra said in a press release. “The Secretary of State has not ruled on my case, and I’ll continue running until the voters of District 63 have an opportunity to elect their representative.”
“I’ve always maintained that these charges were baseless and politically motivated efforts by my opponents to distract the voters,” Mabra said.
Meanwhile, in State House District 39, Anne Taylor, a candidate challenging State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan–a cheerleader for charter schools–for the Democratic nomination, recently learned that due to redistricting, she now lives a quarter mile outside of District 39, the South Cobb Patch reported.
Taylor appeared in Court on Friday, July 13, 2012.
“No, I’m not dropping out,” Taylor told the Patch. “It would have been all for nothing. You’ll have to force me out.”
Thomas in Kemp’s Office confirmed to APN that they were reviewing the Taylor case as well.
Clarence Johnson, who is challenging incumbent Fulton County Superior Court Judge Todd Markle, was also ruled to not be qualified.
ALJ Michael Malihi ruled that Johnson is not qualified due to more than 15,000 dollars he owes in back state and federal taxes, and because he failed to remedy the issues with active payment plans prior to qualifying for office, according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution newspaper. The challenge was filed by Matt Metcalf of Roswell.
Johnson’s attorney, Mel “Muwali” Davis said that Johnson will appeal the ruling if it is upheld by Kemp.
Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Markle, Deal’s former executive counsel, to fill the seat formerly held by Michael Johnson. Michael Johnson is now challenging US Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) for the Democratic nomination for US House District 5.
Clarence Johnson used to work as a Staff Attorney for the City of Atlanta and for Fulton County. In 2010, he ran for another Fulton County Superior Court Judge race, the seat currently held by Kelly Amanda Lee.