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Lutzs wife confronts neighbor about recall petition
Effort to gain enough signatures to qualify for recall may be suspended
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Brian Harris never voted for Craig Lutz.

He never knew, either, that the home he moved to less than a month ago on Sleepy Lagoon Way was eight doors down from the commissioner.

But he found out on Saturday, when Craig Lutz's wife, Shanon, showed up at the door.

Harris had recently signed a petition to recall the elected official — his neighbor — from the Hall County Board of Commissioners.

Shanon Lutz was apparently aware; she pulled out the signed petition shortly after welcoming Harris to the neighborhood, he said.

"It was like rapid-fire ‘Jeopardy' questions ... something that an attorney would ask in a deposition," Harris recalled.

The group that secured 229 signatures, led by Kevin Kanieski and Bobby Hulsey, to move forward with a petition to recall Lutz from the board is facing a court challenge.

The group claims Lutz has violated the Open Meetings Act and illegally fired the county's top three administrators in January.

Craig Lutz filed papers in Hall County Superior Court Tuesday to have a judge decide whether the group has legally sufficient grounds to try to oust the freshman commissioner.

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

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

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

Superior Court Judge Andrew Fuller recused himself from the case Wednesday. The case has been referred to an administrative judge in Athens, according to Steve Ferrell, Hall County's district court administrator.

Clarke County Chief Superior Judge Lawton Stephens will now appoint a judge from outside the Northeastern Judicial Circuit but within the 9th district to come to Hall and hear the matter.

Though Ferrell couldn't speculate on how long it would take to secure a judge, he said such decisions are usually made within 48 hours in Hall County.

Until the judicial review is complete, an effort to gain enough signatures to qualify for a recall election will have to be suspended.

If a judge determines the group has sufficient legal grounds to move forward with the recall petition, the group will face the task of gathering the signatures of 30 percent of the total number of registered voters in Lutz's district at the time of his election, or 9,452 voters.

Previously, Lutz has applauded the signers of the petition for becoming involved in the democratic process.

But Harris is skeptical of the authenticity of those statements - especially since Lutz is calling on a judge to condemn any wrongdoing in the process.

"My signing that recall notice was me exercising my First Amendment rights to free speech and to criticize a public official that I think is doing a bad job, and that's simply it," Harris said. "His attempts at saying he's going to turn this into a monstrous legal battle is, in effect, him trying to intimidate the voting population."

Shanon Lutz did not speak to The Times Wednesday; Craig Lutz commented on her behalf, because he was the public figure, he said.

Lutz said Harris' home was the only one his wife visited. The Lutzes had been surprised that someone in their neighborhood would have signed the petition, the commissioner said.

"I know most of the people on my street, and most of them support me," Lutz said.

Though he said it was Shanon Lutz's idea to confront Harris, Craig Lutz said he told his wife to ask Harris if he actually signed the petition and to confirm whether the person signed as the circulator — Kevin Kanieski — was the person who brought him the petition.

Harris told The Times Wednesday that Kanieski did not bring the petition to his home. Harris would not say who brought the petition to him, however.

The statement, which Harris apparently also made to Shanon Lutz, is enough for Craig Lutz to continue his argument that the petition has enough "irregularities" to be dismissed.

He told Harris as much when Harris came down to the Lutzes home later Saturday afternoon to tell the commissioner he did not appreciate the confrontation.

Though Harris says he felt Shanon Lutz's actions on Saturday were out of line, Harris says he doesn't want his political opinions to turn into a war between neighbors.

He doesn't expect one to occur.

But he won't be surprised if a Hall County sheriff's deputy shows up at his house with a subpoena.

 

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