A hearing to determine the eligibility of a candidate running for the District 9 seat in the Macon-Bibb County consolidated government has been set for 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Al Tillman, who is running against Macon City Councilman James Timley for the commission seat, is at the center of a residency challenge by Councilman Henry Gibson, who isn’t running for a seat in the new government.
Gibson filed the challenge last week, alleging that Tillman wrongly qualified in District 9. Gibson says Tillman applied for a homestead exemption on a house he owns in District 8.
Tillman, a former president of the local NAACP chapter, responded by saying he could prove he was -- and still is -- a resident of District 9 when he filled out his candidate affidavit with the Bibb County Elections Board during qualifying last month.
Tillman’s current residence is an apartment at 5341 Bloomfield Road. The house he owns is on Robin Hood Drive, about a tenth of a mile away. Bloomfield Road serves as the dividing line between Districts 8 and 9.
Gibson and Tillman will be allowed to present their evidence to the elections board during the hearing, and the board likely will render an immediate decision after considering it, said William Noland, an attorney advising the elections board. Either Gibson or Tillman can appeal the board’s decision in Superior Court, but the board’s decision about Tillman’s eligibility would stand unless a judge issues an order overturning the ruling, he said.
According to the law, Noland said, there are 16 factors used to determine a candidate’s eligibility, but not all of them will come into play in this case. A Georgia Supreme Court case said a homestead exemption could be a factor in determining eligibility, but it’s not an overriding factor, he said.
Given the timetable of events -- early voting is scheduled to begin Aug. 26 -- board members want a decision as soon as possible.
Once a decision is rendered, either Tillman or Gibson could file an appeal within 10 days. Board members expressed concern that such an action might cause the election to be delayed, but Noland said a Superior Court judge likely would expedite a hearing should one be necessary to avoid interfering with early voting.
The hearing will be held at the Board of Elections office at 2445 Pio Nono Ave. in Macon.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.