Four candidates to run for mayor (Aug. 30, 2013)
The eligibility of Conyers mayoral candidate Olivia Holmes Ware is being questioned after it was discovered Ware was not a registered voter in the city of Conyers, had provided various addresses to local courts and state agencies within the last year and had voted in Newton County last year.
Mayoral candidates are required to be a registered voter in the city and have been a resident of the city of Conyers for at least one year as of the election date (Nov. 5, 2013).
A hearing was held by Conyers Election Supervisor Pat Smith on Friday, 10 a.m. which heard testimony from Rockdale County Elections Supervisor Cynthia Welch, the Newton County Elections Supervisor Donna Morrison, Department of Driver Services official Lavern Walker and the officer who attempted to serve a letter of notice to Ware at a prearranged time and location.
Ware did not attend the hearing. She contacted city officials Friday afternoon and requested to pick up a copy of the letter. As of the close of Friday Ware had not picked up the letter, according to City Attorney Mike Waldrop.
Ware filed for candidacy on Aug. 30 and submitted a signed statement saying that she had been a legal resident of Rockdale County for two consecutive years and a legal resident of the Olde Town district in the city for one year. She submitted a Peaks Landing address on her candidacy paperwork, which also contained the statement "I understand that any false statement knowingly made by me in this Notice of Candidacy and Affidavit will subject me to criminal penalties as provided by law."
However, Rockdale County Elections Supervisor Cynthia Welch said that her office, which is contracted by the city to run the city's elections, had found while confirming the eligibility of all the candidates that Ware was not registered to vote in the city of Conyers and appeared to have been living in Newton County at least as of last year.
Ware is registered to vote under a Coal Shovel Trail NE address, which is located in the Milstead district in Rockdale County and is not within the city of Conyers.
Ware had transferred her voter registration from Newton County on Aug. 16 by going to the Department of Driver Services to change the address on her voter registration card.
Two weeks later, on Aug. 30, she went back to DDS to change her voter registration address to the Peaks Landing address.
The Newton County elections office reported that Ware last voted in Newton County in the November 2012 general election.
The Rockdale Couny elections office also found that Ware had claimed a homestead for property taxes in Newton County at a Mt. Zion Road, Oxford address.
City Attorney Mike Waldrop said Ware had also filed divorce papers in Newton County in October 2012 where she said she was a resident in Newton County, and was granted posession of the home on Mt. Zion Road in Oxford.
Waldrop pointed out that the paperwork Ware had filed in Newton County, with DDS, with Rockdale County, and with the city of Conyers with different residential addresses were all sworn affidavits "that are in conflict with each other, all of which can't be true."
False swearing can carry a felony charge in Georgia, he said, if the District Attorney chose to prosecute.
Ware is already under a pre-trial diversion program for charges of theft by receiving which would end May 2014, if she complies with the requirements. At the time of her arrest by Conyers police in January 2013, she was booked in jail under the Coal Shovel Trail address.
A letter from City Election Superintendent Pat Smith about the hearing was sent on Sept. 17 to all three addresses - at Peaks Landing, Coal Shovel Trail and Mt. Zion Road. "I will likewise allow you the opportunity to present evidence and information to support your contention that you are qualified to run for the Office of Mayor in the November 5, 2013, City Election," wrote Smith.
Waldrop said he had sent a letter a week ago about the issues. "We began to try to notify her Tuesday that we're going to have a hearing Friday morning. We mailed the letters to each of the three addresses that she has used. In addition we attempted to have a letter in the same fashion of the first letter hand delivered to her."
He said they had called and made contact with her, arranging to meet at a location to deliver the letter. A car that a neighbor identified as belonging to Ware was at the location and a light was on in the building but no one answered the door. The neighbor said he had never known the car to be there and Ware not to be there at the same time. Waldrop said the city had called the number where they had reached her previously and left a message with the time and date of the hearing.
City Elections Supervisor Pat Smith has not issued a conclusion but is expected to make a ruling early in the upcoming week. Ware has not withdrawn from the race as of Friday, said Waldrop.
After a decision is made, Ware would have 10 days to appeal to Superior Court.
County Elections Supervisor Cynthia Welch said at this point the ballot has been set and if Ware were ruled ineligible, her name would still be printed on the ballot but votes for her would not count. Signs would be posted at the city's two precinct polling stations notifying voters that votes for her would not count and notices would be sent out with absentee ballots.
Calls to Ware were not returned by press time.
On her candidacy application, Ware identified herself as a 54-year-old entrepreneur and minister. Her Twitter feed describes herself as a public speaker and humanitarian and candidate for "Mayor over Rockdale County."
Ware and her former husband James Holmes had reportedly received $27,000 in stimulus funds to pay low-income employees for their start-up cable company called Set-Free TV in 2010 but employees reported that they were not paid for the hours that they had worked, according to a WSB-TV report.
On her Facebook page, created July 1, Ware commented on another mayoral candidate, Kathy Harvey, saying that "Kathy Lorraine Harvey has worked under Mrs. Ware and feels that the community undeserving of her presence... is this who you want as mayor?"
Harvey, who was confirmed by the Rockdale County Elections Supervisor's office as eligible for this year's race, had previously run for mayor in 2009. At that time, she was facing a felony theft charge in Newton County but received first offender status.