A judge has upheld a Peach County Board of Elections decision to disqualify a coroner candidate from the November election, according to a ruling issued Friday afternoon.
Houston County Superior Court Judge Edward Lukemire stated in the ruling that Otis Daniel may have been pardoned for his 1972 crime, but the position of coroner is not among the elected positions he can hold.
Daniel, a former Fort Valley fire chief, pleaded guilty to burglary when he was 17. He received a pardon, which restores all civil rights, in 1988. He submitted a qualifying application in May to run for Peach County coroner.
The Board of Elections reviewed a complaint about Daniels past on Oct. 15 and decided to disqualify him from the election. He appealed the same week.
Lukemire stated in his ruling that the General Assembly passed a law that prohibits anyone with a felony offense or any offense involving moral turpitude from holding the office of coroner. The same is true for clerk of Superior Court and sheriff. There was a provision regarding pardons mentioned in those statutes, according to Lukemire.
Therefore, as to these three offices, and others not cited, it appears the Legislature has added or heightened the eligibility requirements, the ruling states.
The Georgia Constitution does address pardons, which Daniels attorney based her appeal upon. Yet, Lukemire stated in the ruling, it also allows the Legislature to enact laws regarding eligibility for any position not created by the Georgia Constitution. The office of coroner was not created in the constitution. As such, the more stringent requirements apply.
Daniels attorney, Crystal James, said she plans to appeal the Houston Superior Court decision. It was unclear to which the court the appeal would be made.
James said that the lack of pardons being mentioned in the law confuses the issue.
The is some (un)clarity of the law and the interpretation of the law, James said. Its hard for the trial court to interpret the meaning of the law.
Daniel, a Democrat, was challenging long-time incumbent Kerry Rooks, a Republican. James said that if the Board of Elections is overturned near or after the Nov. 6 election, a special election could be held that would include Daniels name.
To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.