Midville election is rife with controversy



This camper set up in Midville has some citizens questioning whether Wallace Lemons’ pursuit for the mayor position is legal.

This camper set up in Midville has some citizens questioning whether Wallace Lemons’ pursuit for the mayor position is legal.

Citizens are questioning Councilman Wallace Lemons’ right to qualify for the race. Lemons files homestead exemption for tax purposes in Laurens County, where he and his wife own a home. However, Lemons is registered to vote in Burke County and stays in a camper in Midville.

This is not the first time Lemons’ residency has been questioned. According to official Midville City Council meeting minutes, Joan Poythress brought up the issue in April 2019 regarding Lemons’ position on the council. Lemons said he claimed the homestead exemption due to higher taxes on the Laurens County home. This selfie posted on Facebook has some Midville citizens wondering if mayoral candidate Pat Dye stormed the capitol.

The city’s charter requires that candidates have been residents for at least one year and be eligible to vote in the municipal elections. Lemons pointed out during a phone interview Monday, that although he and his wife are not separated, they reside in different counties. He said he lives full time in the camper.

 

 

“I am an official resident of Midville,” Lemons said. “I do all of my business in Burke County.”

Midville Elections Supervisor Fran Watson qualified Lemons’ candidacy for the race. Citizens wishing to challenge that decision would need to file a complaint with the Investigative Division of the Secretary of State’s Office. The Burke County Board of Elections Director Beau Gunn says his department would only oversee Lemons’ voter registration status and has no authority over his run for office in Midville.

Although Lemons continues to be allowed to run for mayor,, his homestead exemption may be in jeopardy.

A spokesperson in Laurens County confirmed Tuesday that Lemons’ homestead exemption is under review with the Tax Assessor’s office.

Lemons’ admission that he resides in Burke County full time and is a resident thereof, is in contrast to the requirements that must be met to claim the homestead exemption in another county.

According to the Georgia Department of Revenue’s website, “To be granted a homestead exemption: A person must actually occupy the home, and the home is considered their legal residence for all purposes.”

“The home of each resident of Georgia that is actually occupied and used as the primary residence by the owner may be granted a $2,000 exemption from county and school taxes except for school taxes levied by municipalities and except to pay interest on and to retire bonded indebtedness,” the website reads.

Additionally, State Representative Gloria Frazier looked to the General Assembly’s Deputy Legislative Counsel, Paul Higbee, for direction on the question of Lemons’ ability to meet the requirement of running for office in Burke County.

According to Georgia Code Section 21-2-217: in determining the residence of a person desiring to register to vote or to qualify to run for elective office, “the residence of any person shall be held to be in that place in which such person’s habitation is fixed, without any present intention of removing therefrom.”

Furthermore, the Code makes it clear that because Lemons claims a homestead exemption in Laurens County, he is considered to be a resident of that county.

“The specific address in the county or municipality in which a person has declared a homestead exemption, if a homestead exemption has been claimed, shall be deemed the person’s residence address; and for voter registration purposes, the board of registrars and, for candidacy residency purposes, the Secretary of State, election superintendent, or hearing officer may consider evidence of where the person receives significant mail such as personal bills and any other evidence that indicates where the person resides,’ the code states.

Citizens wishing to challenge Lemons’ Burke County voter registration status should contact the Burke County Board of Elections.

Inquiries to Midville City Attorney John Levis went unanswered. An email inquiry to Elections Supervisor Fran Watson also received no response.

Meanwhile, the rumor mill is working overtime as the race for a new Midville mayor takes place.

A photo of opposing candidate Pat Dye posted on Facebook has some citizens wondering if he was involved in the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol, in which a mob of more than 2,000 Donald Trump supporters attacked the building in Washington, D.C. Dye put the rumor to rest Monday in a phone interview. Although he admits attending the rally, he says he did not participate in the attack on the Capitol building.

“I was a great distance away from the building,” he said.

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