UPDATE: The city of Conyers filed a countersuit Friday against mayoral candidate Olivia Ware's civil lawsuit, which claimed the city had not properly notified her of the administrative hearing into her eligiblity as a candidate and her official residency.
The city claimed that Ware’s lawsuit was “abusive litigation,” according to a letter city attorney Michael Waldrop mailed to Ware’s three possible residences.
“Your claims against the city of Conyers have been made with malice and without substantial justification,” the letter read, citing law from the Official Code of Georgia Annotated.
Attorney Carrie Bootcheck said a hearing concerning the matter is set for Oct. 2 at 1:30 p.m. with Rockdale County Superior Court Judge Robert Mumford.
(Sept. 26, 3:07 p.m.) A mayoral candidate whose residency was in question was disqualified from the Conyers mayoral race Wednesday.
City Elections Supervisor Pat Smith mailed Olivia Holmes Ware a letter describing her decision to find Ware not legally qualified to run for office of Mayor.
She described the issues reviewed at a Sept. 20 administrative hearing, which Ware did not attend despite being sent certified notifications and voice mails and an attempt to hand deliver the notice.
Smith wrote, "The issues addressed at the hearing included: whether you will have been a resident of the city of Conyers of a period of one year or longer as of November 5, 2013, whether you are a qualfiied elector in the City of conyers, Georgia, and whether you are a qualified electior in the City of Conyers that is qualified to vote in the November 5, 2013 Election."
She continued, "I have determined you will not have been a resident of the City of Conyers for a period of one year or longer as of November 5, 2013."
The letter went on to cite Ware's voting activity in Newton County in February 2008, November 2008, November 2010, July 2012 and November 2012. Ware's Newton County voter registration identified a Mt. Zion Road address. Divorce papers in Newton County courts also indentified Ware as resident of the Mt. Zion Road address. Ware also received homestead tax exemption on property taxes for the Mt. Zion Road address and was positioned to receive the homestead property tax exemption again for 2013 at that address. When Ware did transfer her voter registration address from Newton County to Rockdale County in August 16, 2013, it was to a Coal Shovel Trail address, which is in unincorporated Rockdale County, not the city of Conyers.
Ware will have 10 days from the Sept. 25 decision to file an appeal in Superior Court.
According to County Elections Supervisor Cynthia Welch, at this point the ballot has been set and Ware's name will still be printed on the ballot but votes for her will not count. Signs will be posted at the city's two precinct polling stations notifying voters that votes for her would not count and notices will be sent out with absentee ballots.
According to City Attorney Mike Waldrop, Ware was sent a letter via certified mail about the hearing on Sept. 17 to all three addresses in question - at Peaks Landing in the city, Coal Shovel Trail in Rockdale County and Mt. Zion Road in Newton County. Waldrop said he had also sent a letter a week ago, Sept. 9, about the issues.
City staff had called and talked with her on Sept. 18, arranging to meet after 12 p.m. at a Gees Mill Road location to deliver the letter. But when the officer went there at 12:45 p.m. to deliver the letter on Sept. 18, no one came to the door. A car that a neighbor identified as belonging to Ware was at the location and a light was on in the building. 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.
In the civil lawsuit, filed Tuesday, Ware accused the city of failing to notify her of the administrative hearing and asked the court for a jury trial and to award her compensatory damages for emotional distress and attorney's fees.