SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – One of Chatham County’s District 2 Commission candidates, Tony Riley, will face the Board of Elections for a qualification hearing on Oct. 27.
The hearing proceeds a complaint that Board of Elections Chair Tom Mahoney received on Sunday. He says he presented it to board members, and in a 3 to 2 vote, they decided to go forward with the hearing.
Mahoney also acknowledges that the timing of the complaint is questionable.
“You know to have this come up at the last minute like this it really stinks and nobody likes it,” the chair said.
Mahoney added that is the duty of the board to uphold the constitution, which states, “no person who has been convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude unless that person’s civil rights have been restored and at least 10 years have elapsed from the completion of the sentence … is eligible to hold public office.”
Board member Antwan Lang voted against proceeding with the hearings. He says the definition is vague and it’s unclear what crimes qualify as “moral turpitude.”
Georgia election law experts say in the past, the moral turpitude clause can be interpreted in different ways.
“I haven’t seen a document come in to me as a board member, nor has anything been given to the board as far as a legal opinion,” said Lang. “Again this is not a partisan issue that I have, this is about making sure the process is fair.”
Mahoney says if the board votes to disqualify Riley his Republican challenger, Gator Rivers would run unopposed. Questions about Rivers’ criminal history have also been brought to the board’s attention.
Mahoney says his charges were dropped. WSAV News 3 did reach out to the District Attorney, Meg Heap who says the file is sealed and any information about the charges would have to come from Rivers.
Riley and Rivers were asked about the complaints during Thursday’s Chatham County Commission Forum:
Lang says this is a testament to the power local elections boards hold.
“We are ultimately deciding the fate of a county commission district for the next four years,” said Lang, “again this is not political this is a matter of making sure the process is fair and making sure that everyone is playing by the same rules.”
Riley can appeal the decision to the superior court, but Mahoney couldn’t answer what would happen if the ruling was overturned.
Riley tells News 3 he is prepared to fight and continues to run on the same platform.
The hearing was orginally set for this week, but has sinced been pushed back to Oct. 27.
Mahoney says this gives Riley time to build a defense.
“We are not taking this lightly,” said Mahoney.