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Elections board hires attorney for Jones’ candidacy challenge

POSTED: March 24, 2014 8:05 p.m.

The Effingham County board of elections has hired an attorney to aid it as it weighs a challenge to a candidate’s qualification.

While no hearing date has been set for the challenge, brought forth by Andrew and Jocelyn Brantley of Guyton against 2nd District county commissioner Vera Jones, the elections board selected Thomas Cole of Savannah firm Cole, Fleming and Clark.

The Brantleys have charged that Jones, through her and her husband’s construction company, are holding more than $700,000 in county funds through a check that was not properly authorized. Jones has stated the money was due her company after the county said it couldn’t install water and sewer lines to a subdivision in sufficient time and they stepped in to complete the work.

Jones’ attorneys, Scheer and Montgomery of Savannah, drafted a letter to the elections board outlining their opposition to the challenge. Her lawyers counter that the payment was made to DM Jones Inc., and not to Vera Jones individually. They also argue that county attorney Eric Gotwalt and Jon Hart, the attorney for Chatham County’s commission, brought in as an independent counsel, reviewed the situation and “both unequivocally stated the money paid by Effingham was owed to DM Jones Inc. for work performed. There is no question the payment was made to DM Jones Inc. for the benefit of Effingham County.”

They also claim the challenge is “legally and factually inaccurate,” since the law pertains to a public officer holding public money and not a private individual or entity.

“Any allegations Ms. Jones is withholding public money unaccounted for is without basis in law and fact,” their letter states.

Hart was brought in to adjudicate whether the county owed Jones’ company for a generator at the Buckingham pump station. He said the county owed DM Jones Construction $30,000 for the cost of the generator but also said the county did not breach its contract. The agreement called for payment as impact fees were collected, and the commissioners had broad discretion as to when and how the reimbursement will be made.

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