Repub­li­can elec­tions board mem­ber­ship ques­tioned

The Covington News - - NEWS - BRYAN FAZIO bfazio@cov­news.com

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.”

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