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Appeal on Jones challenge filed with state high court

POSTED: June 23, 2014 7:18 p.m.
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2nd District County Commissioner Vera Jones

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The challenge to Vera Jones’ candidacy is headed to the state’s highest court.

An appeal has been filed with the state Supreme Court on Judge Gates Peed’s decision to uphold the elections board’s dismissal of Andrew Brantley’s challenge to Jones’ candidacy as the 2nd District county commissioner. Andrew Brantley, who brought the original challenge to Jones, and his attorney Rick Rafter have filed a certificate of immediate review with the state Supreme Court.

Justices are expected to review the case in October.

In their appeal, the challengers state that Jones is the holder of public money due to the county and that Judge Peed erred in finding there was no evidence to support the claim money was being held unlawfully.

They also say the judge erred in finding the challenger’s legal rights to due process were not violated when the motion to dismiss was granted.

If the elections board and Superior Court rulings are allowed to stand, the challenger claims that would result in a “a total miscarriage of justice” because a candidate improperly holding public funds would be permitted to hold public office.

Jones won re-election to her post, defeating former county commission chairman Dusty Zeigler 573-469. Judge Peed issued his ruling the next day that the elections board’s vote to dismiss Brantley’s challenge will stand.

The original challenge, filed in March, contends that Jones is the holder of public funds, the result of an overpayment for work her company to put in water and sewer lines for a subdivision. Jones countered that the company she owns with her husband Dennis, DM Jones Construction, was due the money from the county, which failed to deliver on promised infrastructure. That necessitated her company performing the work, she and her attorneys argued.

The appeal states Jones and her attorneys filed an untimely motion to dismiss, less than 24 hours before the elections board held its hearing, and it also did not address Brantley’s issues. They also charge that they were allowed to submit written evidence only, but the elections board did not review the evidence and neither were they allowed to call witnesses present at the hearing.

Brantley also is asking the high court to review the board’s decision to grant the motion to dismiss without considering the questions or evidence presented. By not requiring Jones to prove her qualifications or allowing them to show she was not qualified, the elections board failed to address the violation of Brantley’s rights, their filing states.

“In dismissing the applicant’s challenge, the appellee provided no findings of fact, no conclusions of law and relied solely on the irrelevant statements provided by the candidate’s attorney in his oral argument and his motion to dismiss, including hearsay evidence of expert witnesses,” the appeal states.

The appeal also uses a state Supreme Court ruling, Haynes v. Wells, to argue that the burden is on a candidate to “affirmatively establish his eligibility of office” after they have filed their qualification affidavit.

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