Attorney Martin: ‘Notice of Appeal filed in Circuit Court’
By Othor Cain
After a nearly two hour discussion that ended with two failed votes, the Hinds County Board of Supervisors are back at square one when it comes to deciding how to handle the November ballots for the election commissioners race.
At issue is whether or not two candidates filed their intent to run in the proper office by the appropriate deadline. That deadline was Monday, June 4 at 5 p.m. Both Incumbent Commissioner for District 2 Bobbie Graves and Blonda Mack, who is seeking to become the commissioner for District 5, filed in the Circuit Clerk’s office.
In part, according to the state statue Mississippi Code 1972 23-15-213 (2011):
Candidates for county election commissioner shall qualify by filing with the clerk of the board of supervisors of their respective counties a petition personally signed by not less than 50 qualified electors of the supervisors district in which they reside, requesting that they be a candidate, by 5 p.m. not later than the first Monday in June of the year in which the election occurs and unless the petition is filed within the required time, their names shall not be placed upon the ballot.
In a telephone interview with The Mississippi Link, Graves said, “I filed before the deadline, my paperwork is stamped with Circuit Clerk Barbara Dunn’s signature.”
Graves’ attorney Warren Martin maintains that she filed appropriately, and it was the responsibility of the circuit clerk to transfer the paperwork. “The clerk failed to take that petition and transfer it to the chancery clerk who is the clerk for the board of supervisors,” Martin said.
Martin uses as his supporting document the Mississippi Constitution. “The reality is if there is a timely filing in circuit court, the Constitution Article 6 section 156 clearly mandates that you don’t dismiss the action, you don’t terminate the action, you transfer it to the proper clerk,” Martin said. “That wasn’t done in this case and they want my client (Graves) to bear the brunt of that mistake. It was not her mistake. The mistake was made by the circuit clerk.”
It is that mistake, according to Martin and the votes taken by the board of supervisors, that led him to file a notice of appeal with the circuit court.
The first vote or motion made at last week’s meeting was to include Graves, Mack and Ineava May-Pittman on the November ballot. This motion failed. “I could not support this because Mrs. Pittman didn’t get enough signatures in the first place and by voting for this, it wouldn’t give her a chance to go and get the additional signatures needed,” District 5 Supervisor Kenneth Stokes said. “The fair thing for us to do is to open the entire process back up. I am voting for Mrs. Pittman to have a chance in this election.”
“Based on the action of the
Hinds County Board of Supervisors, we felt the need to take this decision out of their hands and place it in the hands of a judge,” Martin said. “I think it will be handled best in the courts, because essentially what happened at that meeting you had two votes without any action.”
The second motion offered by Supervisor Phil Fisher of District 4 during the board meeting was to certify all of the other candidates that according to him meet all of the qualifying deadlines and other requirements to seek this office. This motion failed as well. “Clearly this matter is not over; leaving that meeting we had five days from their vote to file this appeal and we did that,” Martin said. “We must never take away the will of the people and my client is the incumbent and that was the will of the people four years ago.”
Martin has received notification in his response to the brief filed. The case will be assigned to Senior Circuit Court Judge Tomie Green. Both Martin and Hinds County Board of Supervisors Attorney Crystal Martin will review and submit briefs explaining their position and also submit potential dates to Green’s clerk. “Obviously, I’m going to pursue this vigorously with the understanding that it is an emergency because time is of the essence,” Martin said.
The other issue is whether or not one candidate was given proper notice about not having enough signatures.
Stokes maintains that Pittman was not notified in the proper amount of time that some of the signatures she secured did not meet the qualifications.
“I wasn’t going to pursue it any further, but if they had voted to open this up, I would,” Pittman said. “Supervisor Stokes’ help on my behalf was unsoliciated.”