A few Board of Elections and Registration members still contest the status of the board’s vice chairman, which led to a promptly ended debate during Thursday’s meeting.
A few members had contested at the board’s previous meeting that the vice chairman position was open after the term of Gloria Watson, West Point’s appointee who was elected as vice chair in January 2013, lapsed. The county eventually appointed Watson back to the position, but some members said that since Watson’s term lapsed, so had her vice chairmanship.
Board of Elections and Registration Chairman Jane McCoy previously pointed tolanguage in the board’s enabling legislation, SB 520, saying that board members stay on until their term ends or their replacement is named. County Attorney Mark DeGennaro said that “the general rule has long been that offices are not deemed to be vacant and the holders continue to serve until their successors are duly elected and qualified.”
Elections Supervisor Andy Harper said he also confirmed that Watson was in good standing through the Secretary of State’s office.
Thursday, board member J.C. Cameron said that Watson should now be considered a county appointee instead of West Point appointee and asked that her status be corrected to show that.
McCoy initially asked if anyone wanted to make a motion to change the status, but then stopped.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily a question, we need to refer to her as a Troup County (appointee),” McCoy said.
Harper said even though Watson was appointed by the county, she was appointed as a representative for the city of West Point. Board member Ellen Gilmore disagreed.
She noted that the city made a recommendation to appoint Watson for another term, but because the city council failed to name an appointment within the time frame set out in the board’s enabling legislation, the appointment defaulted to the County Commission. The commission used West Point’s recommendation and appointed Watson.
Cameron then made a new motion to elect a vice chairman, which Gilmore seconded. McCoy asked for any discussion and Gilmore made a motion to make Cameron vice chair, but McCoy noted Cameron’s original motion on whether to elect a vice chair was still active and the board needed to vote on it first.
McCoy called for a vote, with Gilmore and Cameron the only two voting in favor of electing a vice chair. Board members Watson, A.R. Ransom, Fred Higgins and McCoy all voted against the motion.
Board member Lonnie Hollis didn’t vote, but said after the meeting that she didn’t believe Watson could retain the vice chair position because her appointment had lapsed.
“OK, the motion to elect a vice chair is failed,” McCoy said.
“OK, do we have a vice chair?” said Cameron.
“According to the (county) attorney and Secretary of State’s office, Miss Watson is our vice chair,” McCoy said.
“Well, you know-” Cameron began.
“And we’re not going to digress further, we’re not wasting more time with this,” McCoy said. ”We are out of order if we do. We have talked and the body has spoken. If you have further complaints, I would recommend passing it along to higher bodies than us.”
“I would like-” began Gilmore.
“There is nothing further we can talk about,” McCoy said.
“Yes there is something we can talk about …. misses chairman,” Gilmore said.
“Pardon me … That’s madam chairman,” McCoy said.
“Madam chairman,” Gilmore said. “… Was Misses Watson a member of this board on January the first, 2014?”
“The Secretary of State has spoken,” McCoy said. “And so has the attorney… ”
“The Secretary of State is not a member of this board,” Gilmore said.
“… The state laws of Georgia are ultimately our governing body,” McCoy said. “We (and) the elections supervisor, the county attorney and the Secretary of State are in unison that Miss Watson’s appointment has stood. And if you have further complaint, I would recommend, highly, that you contact the Secretary of State’s office.”
… “Quit playing games and just to say, ‘OK, Miss Watson, you have been re-appointed, the board has re-appointed (you),’ and that’s all,” Cameron said to McCoy. “We can get that off of the table and it won’t have to come up no more.”
Gilmore asked why the board didn’t have to re-elect Watson as vice chair, saying her appointment was different because she now is a county appointee rather than representing West Point. She asserted that Watson wasn’t a member of the board after her first term ended until she was sworn in again in March.
“We’re done, we’re done,” McCoy said abruptly, slamming the gavel and eliciting murmurs from some attendees. “Out of order; we’re done.”