The question regarding Horace Don Gresham's candidacy for the District 2 seat on the Board of Education is still in the air despite the revelation of his 1988 felony conviction of sodomy of a child under the age of 14 in DeKalb County.
Gresham's candidacy took a major blow, just days after he qualified with the Newton County Board of Elections when court documents surfaced detailing a conviction in May 1988 of sodomy to a child under the age of 14.
Gresham was charged on two counts of child molestation and two counts of sodomy and pleaded guilty to the second count of sodomy. According to the court deposition, Gresham had an inappropriate relationship with the child from Oct. 1985 to Feb. 1987.
In a separate case, Gresham was arrested by the Newton County Sheriff's Office in 1999 on charges of public indecency. Those charges were dead docketed in the Superior Court of Newton County in July 2000.
Several calls to Gresham have not been returned and his status as a candidate remains unchanged as of press time.
According to Steve Bray, chairman of the Newton County Republican Party, the organization does not remove candidates from the ballot once they've qualified.
"At this point, Mr. Gresham is a candidate having gone through the qualifying process and paid his fees," Bray said. "Each candidate is responsible for their knowledge of and compliance with the Georgia State Election Code. The Newton County Republican Party's role in the qualifying process is to certify the candidate's signatures on the documents and collect the qualifying fees."
Gresham signed the Declaration of Candidacy and Affidavit, which states candidates must have had their civil rights fully restored for at least 10 years upon the completion of their felony sentence. According to the deposition, Gresham was sentenced to one year in prison and 11 years of probation in 1988, making him ineligible to run for public office until 2010.
According to Bray, the public has a voice in whether Gresham can continue to run for the BOE seat.
"There are two methods for removal of a candidates name from the ballot," he said. "One would be for the candidate to file an affidavit of withdrawal, which I would encourage Mr. Gresham to do, and two would be for his qualification to be challenged by a registered Newton county resident or the county board of election."
Because Gresham's conviction occurred before 1996, he is not required to register with the county or state as a sex offender. In addition, only candidates qualifying to run for sheriff's races are required to undergo a background check and the party had no way of knowing Gresham was a convicted sex offender.
Lieutenant Ezell Brown of the Newton County Sherriff's Office said Newton County currently houses between 135-150 registered sex offenders and his special unit, comprising of three uniformed officers make daily patrols to monitor their activities.
"One of the things we do regularly is check up on sexual offenders daily to make sure they are still in the area," he said. "It is especially important we make sure we keep up with those we consider high risk."
According to Brown, the county currently has four absconders, or registered residents who have fled and failed to register in another Georgia county. But he says he usually has a pretty good idea when or if someone on the state's registry.
"Generally within five to seven days, we have a good idea of whether a sex offender is complying," added Brown.
Regardless of Gresham's candidacy, Brown reiterated the NCSO does not keep tabs on known sex offenders who are not required to register with the state.
"I may have a personal opinion about it," Brown said. "However, in my official capacity with the Sherriff's depart I cannot comment, even though he was convicted of a sex crime in 1988, and today those charges would place him on the registry."
Gresham is still on the ticket as a candidate for the BOE and unless someone challenges his status, he will face incumbent Rickie Corley in the July 15 primary.
Meanwhile, Bray was adamant the GOP had no knowledge of Gresham's past is ready to move forward with the rest of the races.
"We have confidence in the procedures that are in place to protect the integrity of our elections," he added.