State sends allegations against two Gray officials to attorney general

ATLANTA -- Georgia’s attorney general will take over the case of two Gray city officials and one other woman accused of mishandling absentee ballots in their 2009 elections.

That’s the unanimous decision of the State Elections Board, which hears charges of voting irregularities statewide.

Gray Mayor Pro Tem Loretta Lipsey and a woman named Evelyn Collins are accused of bringing completed absentee ballots to City Hall.

“There were several cases where Ms. Lipsey and Ms. Collins picked up ballots from electors and delivered them to election office,” Chief Investigator Chris Harvey told a State Elections Board meeting Wednesday.

Gray Councilman Benny Gray is accused of the same thing and additionally assisting several electors with applications for absentee ballots, according to state documents.

“When confronted with evidence,” Harvey said, Grey acknowledged he may have improperly signed some ballot documents that did not belong to him.

But Gray answered “I haven’t done anything wrong,” when contacted by phone after Wednesday’s meeting. He acknowledged he signed one absentee ballot application for a man who had signed by “X.” And Gray admitted to carrying “eight or 10” absentee ballots from aged voters to the elections office at their request, but he added that no one has objected to his doing that in previous years.

He stands by his actions but said he probably would accept a consent order “to keep things from blowing out of proportion.”

When the attorney general receives cases from the State Elections Board, they first try to negotiate some civil agreement such as a fine. If the defendant wants a hearing, cases go the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings.

Lipsey could not immediately be reached by telephone Wednesday.

Lipsey’s 2009 opponent, Rallie Cogburn, filed the complaint to the State Elections Board, along with Rebecca Cogburn, neighbor Amy Smith and a Gray woman named Joyce Grogan.

The Gray election supervisor and clerks also are under investigation in the same complaint.

The State Elections Board investigators found “numerous” cases of the office failing to fill out forms or collect data on absentee or advanced votes.

Those allegations have yet to be scheduled for a State Elections Board discussion.