Former Peach County coroner candidate appeals disqualification

chwright@macon.comOctober 22, 2012 

A former candidate for Peach County coroner who was recently disqualified from running has appealed the decision, according to the Peach County Clerk of Court’s office.

Attorneys for Otis Daniel Jr., a former Fort Valley fire chief, state in the petition that the Board of Elections was ill-advised during an Oct. 15 hearing in which Peach County attorney Jeff Liipfert said Daniel’s 1976 felony charge -- though pardoned -- disqualified the candidate for the position.

The board has 10 days to respond to the appeal, according to Superior Court documents.

After a complaint was filed with the Secretary of State’s office, the Board of Elections called a hearing to discuss Daniel’s qualifications to run for coroner. At the hearing, Liipfert told board members state law prohibits anyone with a criminal past from running for sheriff. Since the coroner replaces the sheriff in case of an empty seat between elections, Liipfert said the rule applies to the coroner as well.

Daniel’s appeal, filed Friday, states Liipfert depended on a 1980 Crawford County case, “which references statutes that speak specifically to the position of Sheriff which is distinguishable from this matter and which the Georgia Constitution of 1983 ... overrules and says that a pardon restores all civil rights including the right to hold office.”

Daniel received a pardon in 1988 for a theft he pleaded guilty to when he was 17 years old.

Daniel “has voted in Peach County over the past 40 years, held a gun permit, and exercised all other rights that are restricted for convicted felons pursuant to the pardon that he has received,” the appeal states.

Daniel, a Democrat, was running against long-time Republican incumbent Kelly Rooks.

Neither Daniel nor his attorney, Crystal James of Atlanta-based Crystal Sermons LLC, could be reached for comment late Monday.

Board of Elections Chairman Larry Pearce also could not be reached for comment.

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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