The Bibb County Board of Elections affirmed Thursday that Steve Allen will remain as the board’s vice chairman despite the wishes of the county’s Democratic Party, which wants him removed after his role in a controversial vote last month.
In a 4-1 vote, the board authorized Elections Supervisor Jeanetta Watson to send a letter to the local Democratic Party to inform it that Allen -- one of the party’s two appointees -- is still a member of the board, thanks to a letter the elections office received in February from the party’s then-Chairman Fred Swann.
Ronnie Miley, the Democratic Party’s other appointee to the board, opposed.
Controversy has swirled around Allen’s status on the board since last month, when he voted in favor of holding the nonpartisan special election for the new Macon-Bibb County consolidated government on Sept. 17, the earliest date on the Georgia Secretary of State’s calendar for a special election. Allen’s vote incurred the wrath of the party’s executive committee, which favors a Nov. 5 election date.
The party cites traditionally higher voter participation from black voters in the county during November elections.
Thursday after a 30-minute executive session meeting with Bibb County Attorney Virgil Adams, board members said Watson has a letter that was faxed to the Board of Elections in February from former Bibb County Democratic Chairman Fred Swann, who wrote the party wishes “Stephen Allen and Ronnie Miley to remain on the Board of Elections for the Democrats this year.”
The five-member elections board is made up of two Democratic appointees, two Republican appointees and an independent.
Swann recently stepped down as Democratic Party chairman after Allen was forced to resign from the party’s executive committee last month. But Allen never resigned from the Board of Elections.
Acting Democratic Party Chairwoman Sandye Powell sent Watson a July 9 letter expressing her concern that Allen didn’t resign from the board when he resigned from the party’s executive committee. Powell noted that Allen and Miley completed their two-year terms at the end of March but were allowed to remain on the elections board until the party’s executive committee made new appointments.
Powell’s letter said the party’s executive committee didn’t reappoint Allen, but instead replaced him with John Swint, while Miley was reappointed. Powell asked the board to make arrangements for a swearing-in ceremony for Swint.
Allen said Thursday that he was legally appointed and sworn in for a new two-year term in April, and he has a certificate signed by Gov. Nathan Deal that affirms his appointment to the board. He said he has no intention of resigning from the board of elections.
“This (letter) is something (the party) came up with after the fact,” Allen said. “I was duly appointed and sworn in. ... Appointments don’t automatically roll over. (Watson) has a letter signed by the chair, Fred Swann, that said Ronnie and I are the appointments. ... I will not voluntarily resign.”
State Sen. David Lucas, D-Macon, who serves as a member of the party’s executive committee, said Swann acted without the committee’s permission to make the appointments when he sent his letter and that the committee didn’t know about it until the situation with Allen arose.
“The problem is, there was no concurrence of the executive board,” Lucas said. “Fred Swann can’t reappoint anyone (by himself). ... We OK’d Ronnie Miley and John Swint. There’s no question about that.”
An attempt to reach Swann for comment Thursday was unsuccessful.
Lucas said he couldn’t comment on Thursday’s vote by the board since he wasn’t present and the letter hasn’t been written yet. He said he doesn’t know how or if the party will respond to the letter.
Adams informed the board earlier this month that according to Georgia law, only a judge can remove a board member, and only then if there’s just cause and a hearing is held.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.