Ruling expected soon on Tillman candidacy

mstucka@macon.comSeptember 6, 2013 

A judge gave attorneys in the Al Tillman residency dispute until Monday to say why, or whether, he should be disqualified as a Macon-Bibb County Commission candidate for District 9.

Macon Councilman Henry Gibson is appealing his 4-0 loss before the Board of Elections, which ruled that Tillman is legitimately living in a District 9 apartment nearly across the street from the District 8 house where his wife lives.

Senior Superior Court Judge Stephen E. Boswell told attorneys in court Friday that time is of the essence. The election is Sept. 17, and early voting has been underway for two weeks.

“Mr. Gibson and Mr. Tillman and the people of Bibb County are entitled to a decision fairly quickly,” Boswell said. “So this isn’t something we’re going to drag around.”

Tillman showed the election board his rental contract, rental deposit, utility bills, and photographs of his possessions in the apartment he says is now his home. He’s a registered voter there, and his car is also registered there.

William Noland, an attorney for the Board of Elections, said all of the evidence given to the board shows that Tillman was a resident of District 9. That made the board’s decision inevitable.

“There was only one possible result that could have been reached,” Noland said.

Gibson is not running for a position in the new government, but Tillman and Macon Councilman James Timley are the only candidates for the District 9 seat. Gibson, Tillman, Timley and Councilman Henry Ficklin were present for Friday’s hearing.

Gibson had an attorney, Charles E. Cox, at Friday’s hearing, who tried to oust Tillman and his attorney from taking part in the proceedings. Just two weeks earlier, Gibson tried to get the elections board to delay that hearing because Tillman had gotten an attorney and he hadn’t.

Cox argued that the Board of Elections hearing needs to be revisited or the judge needs to void Tillman’s candidacy outright.

Cox said the Board of Elections hadn’t considered crucial evidence to Tillman’s residency, such as where his wife runs a business.

“The evidence falls short of showing that he established a residence in District 9,” Cox said.

Noland said Gibson was given every opportunity to ask questions and present evidence.

Lawyers said they had no evidence to add to the case, besides the evidence already given to the Board of Elections.

Randall Harrison said Tillman was paying bills from the apartment, where he’d registered as a voter and registered his car. Harrison said the board heard exactly the kind of evidence that Cox says Gibson was not allowed to present.

“The evidence was not only substantial, it was controlling in this case. And that record will be before you. ... There’s nothing to remand when the record is clear,” Harrison said.

After the hearing, Tillman and Gibson traded barbs and insults.

Tillman said, “I think our community needs to say a prayer for Mr. Gibson and for my opponent, Mr. Timley. They’ve wasted a lot of taxpayers’ time and money.”

Gibson said that “Mr. Tillman is a pathological liar. I’m not saying that to be mean. I’ve known Mr. Tillman. I’ve known him for years. He’s a joke.”

The barbs may continue next week, when the judge is expected to rule.

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