Two candidates for local office must step down from their current positions after confusion at the Tattnall County Elections Office found that neither were permitted to continue serving while seeking another office.
The finding impacts Reidsville City Councilwoman Lindsay Bennett and Glennville Councilman Bernie Weaver. Both are seeking the office of mayor in their respective cities. Bennett will face incumbent mayor Sydney Clifton in November and Weaver is running against Randy King, but neither anticipated having to step down from their council seats for the last four months of the year.
Municipal election qualifying takes place at City Hall unless the city contracts with the elections office specifically – Reidsville and Glennville do not. When qualifying is closed, the information is turned over to the Tattnall County Elections Office. Weaver and Bennett both inquired with the Tattnall County Elections Office which reportedly told both candidates a resignation was not necessary. Weaver also sought a second opinion from Glennville City Attorney Hugh McCoullough. After qualifying without an issue, each were notified last week that there were constitutional concerns with the holding a current office while seeking another.
Under Georgia’s state constitution, “The office of any state, county, or municipal elected official shall be declared vacant upon such elected official qualifying, in a general primary or general election, or special primary or special election, for another state, county, or municipal elective office or qualifying for the House of Representatives or the Senate of the United States if the term of the office for which such official is qualifying for begins more than 30 days prior to the expiration of such official’s present term of office.
Because the terms of neither Bennett nor Weaver expire at the end of 2019, they cannot continue to serve. The elections office informed the candidates last week with an accompanying apology for giving out the wrong information.
Upon learning of the mixup, both stepped down from their council seats and will continue to seek the office of mayor in the respective towns.
The seats will remain vacant until an appointment is made by council or a special election is held because qualifying for elections closed the week prior. Reidville’s City Charter requires a special election in the event of a vacancy with more than 12 months left to finish the term, which is the case with Bennett’s post. The same is true for Glennville. In both cases, the cities will have to bear the costs of the special elections. No date for either have been set.
The general election for municipal elections is Tuesday, November 5, 2019.
[Applicable code sections from each City Charter are below]
Reidsville City Charter