Republican elections board membership questioned
Though no action was taken, the Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) was told William Perugino will remain on the Newton County Board of Elections (BOE), at least through the July 26 primary runoff.
Newton County Republican Party President Ray Cowan June 21 told the BOC about the question of Perugino’s eligibility on the BOE. Perugino is a former Newton County Republican Party president and is the party’s appointed person on the three-person election board.
The BOC appoints members to the Board of Elections, one representative from each party and one atlarge member.
Cowan and Newton County Republican Party Vice Chair Scott Jay told the BOC that Perugino is no long a member of the party in good standing, and that he did not represent the party’s wishes during a BOE meeting leading up to the primary. The incident questioned by Cowan was a vote concerning the residency of Democrat Chair Candidate Michael Syphoe.
Syphoe, who received a lower vote total than Phil Johnson and Marcello Banes in the primary election, has a homestead exemption on a residence in Fulton County. However, during a meeting to decide if a hearing should be held on Syphoe’s eligibility, the Board of Elections’ Democrat representative Jeanette Perry said Syphoe was her neighbor. With that information in hand the BOE voted unanimously to not enter into a hearing.
“Mr. Perugino failed to support our directive and recognize state law for a candidate to qualify,” Cowan said. “The evidence was clear showing homeowners’ exemption in Fulton County.”
Hugh Steele, Newton County BOE Chair, spoke to the BOC before Cowan and Jay, telling the commission that he felt Perugino’s actions during the meeting concerning Syphoe did not dictate removal from the BOE.
“They believe Mr. Perugino had not acted appropriate,” Steele said. “We felt the decision we made was an appropriate one because of the information given by Miss Perry. I don’t know if there’s any better proof you can have to where a person lives than the next door neighbor.”
Newton County Attorney Megan Martin told the BOC that there are 14 points that can verify a candidate’s residential eligibility, and that a homestead exemption is just one. With that one point, she advised the BOC that Perugino’s decision on Syphoe wasn’t reason alone for his removal.
Cowan claimed malfeasance by the fact that if Periguno voted for a hearing of Syphoe, and the chair candidate was ruled ineligible during that hearing then the county would have been saved the cost of a runoff between Johnson and Banes, to be held July 26.
“The county sustained damage as a result of the un- necessary runoff,” Cowan said. “If Mr. Perugino followed state guidelines only the District 5 polls would need to be open [during the runoff].”
The BOC took the runoff into consideration when coming to a consensus that it would wait until after July to examine further Perugino’s position on the BOE.
“This is a pretty complicated matter in the middle of an election cycle with the runoff going on currently,” District 5 Commissioner Levie Maddox said. “If there is any action taken my proposal would be that it happens after the runoff.”