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Gwinnett judge to review Lutz recall

Attorney sent inquiries to some who signed petition

POSTED: August 30, 2011 10:57 p.m.

Craig Lutz

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A judge from Gwinnett County has been chosen to review the merits of an application to recall Hall County Commissioner Craig Lutz.

Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Tom Davis agreed to take the case after Hall County Superior Court Judge Andrew Fuller recused himself from the matter last week.

Davis will ultimately decide whether an application for a petition to recall Lutz's election to the commission was legally defensible.

Last week, Lutz filed court documents asking a judge to review an application by a group that secured 229 signatures.

The review will suspend any efforts of a group led by Kevin Kanieski and Bobby Hulsey to remove Lutz, who they allege violated Georgia's Open meetings Act and illegally fired the county's top three administrators in January. Kanieski, as the chairman of the recall committee, will also have to prove in court that "probable cause exists to show the grounds alleged."

Lutz has his own concerns about the group's recall effort, and his attorney Paul Stanley is seeking answers.

A number of those who signed an initial petition for Lutz's recall received letters this week from Stanley, who sought information on how the petition was circulated.

The letters from Stanley include a form asking the person to state, under penalty of perjury, whether he or she signed the petition, the name of the person who circulated the petition and whether the signer was registered to vote in Lutz's district at the time he or she signed the petition.

Stanley said the letters are an informal part of the discovery process he plans to use to help determine that all the signatures on the petition are genuine.

Stanley said he has already found "some obvious discrepancies" in the application, though he declined to list them Tuesday.

"There's a myriad of formal ways that I can obtain the same information," Stanley said. "I felt that this was the least intrusive and the fastest for everyone involved."

But Andi Chisholm, who signed the application for recall, said the letter, felt like an intimidation tactic.

"I've already signed a recall. What's the purpose of me saying ‘yes, I signed a recall?'" Chisholm asked. "...It's (Lutz's) right to retain an attorney for this, but if you want me to state, under oath, that I signed a petition, then I'll do it in front of a judge."

Through court documents, Lutz and Stanley have claimed there are "irregularities" in the application for a recall petition that should render it void.

They have asked a judge to disqualify any applications for recall that were not circulated by the person who signed the document as such.

They have also asked the judge to punish any signer who was ineligible or signed it more than once.

Had Lutz not filed the court documents calling for the review on Aug. 23, the group calling for his ouster would have had 45 days from Thursday to gather signatures from 30 percent of the total number of registered voters in Lutz's district at the time of his election, or 9,452 voters.

If those names are verified, a recall election called by Hall County's acting Elections Supervisor Charlotte Sosebee would take place within 30 to 45 days.

A majority vote, or 50 percent plus one, must be reached to remove someone from office.

According to an election law publication issued by the Georgia secretary of state in 2008, a recall can be based on:

  • An official conducting "himself or herself in a manner which relates to and adversely affects the administration of his or her office and adversely affects the rights and interests of the public."
  • An official committing acts of malfeasance, violating the oath of office, an act of misconduct, failing to perform duties prescribed by law or mishandling public property or money.



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