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Lutz to fight recall effort in court
Commissioner files papers denying any wrongdoing
0111craig lutz
Craig Lutz

Craig Lutz is asking a judge to decide whether a group trying to have him removed from Hall County's Board of Commissioners has sufficient grounds to do so.

Lutz filed papers with his attorney Paul Stanley in Hall County Superior Court Tuesday.

In the filing, Lutz denies there are sufficient grounds for his recall as outlined in the state's election law.

The group calling for his ouster has said Lutz both violated Georgia's Open Meetings Law and was part of a coalition to fire Hall County's top administrators without allowing the entire board to vote on the personnel action.

But in his court filing Tuesday, Lutz says he did nothing wrong.

"Hiring and firing decisions are completely within the discretion of the commissioner," according to the court document.

Lutz also claims the group's allegations are vague, and should be deemed legally insufficient because they are not stated with any "reasonable particularity."

"The grounds were that we violated the Open Meetings Act and there's been no evidence to show that we have," Lutz said. "I think the complaints were made before I came into office."

But Bobby Hulsey, who does not live in Lutz's district but is helping to facilitate the recall process, says otherwise. Hulsey said Lutz's court filing Tuesday was part of the process and did not surprise anyone in the group.

"We're certainly excited about showing the evidence we have of the charges," Hulsey said. "...Most everybody knows that the charges we have are valid."

According to Georgia's elections law, the chairman of the recall committee "bears the burden of proof that probable cause exists to show the grounds alleged."

The papers claim the chairman for the recall effort, Kevin Kanieski, is "a mere straw man" used by Bobby Hulsey, who lives outside Lutz's district and has publicly said he is helping to facilitate the recall process.

"Mr. Kanieski is probably just as much concerned about what happened in January as anybody that I've talked to," Hulsey said. "He was the first person that came forward when we started this — when we brought it up that this was going to happen."

Tuesday's court filing should mean that any recall efforts will be suspended until a judge makes the call on whether the group has grounds to continue them.

The group submitted a recall application petition with 229 signatures to the Hall County Elections Office last Thursday, surpassing the requirement of 100 signatures to get the process started.

Nearly 40 of those signatures were disqualified by Hall County's acting Elections Supervisor Charlotte Sosebee.

Because of that, Lutz has also asked that the application for his ouster be dismissed by the court.

Had Lutz not filed the court documents Tuesday, the group 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 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.

"It's part of the democratic process," Lutz said. "To do a recall is a process. What we're doing today is part of that process, and we are happy that the people that signed that petition are finally getting involved in the politics of the county."

 

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