published Saturday, May 14th, 2011

15 seeking top post in Murray

IF YOU GO

At least two candidate forums have been scheduled. The first will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Senior Center. It is organized by a private individual. The second will be at 7 p.m. May 19 at the Murray County Veterans Memorial Park. It is hosted by the Chatsworth Times.

CHATSWORTH, Ga. — Fourteen men and one woman have qualified for the special election of Murray County sole commissioner, an “unheard of” number that likely will trigger a run-off election.

The June 21 election was called after David Ridley resigned in March, just days after a county employee filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint of sexual harassment against him.

“More than likely there is going to be a run-off,” County Manager and interim Commissioner Tom Starnes said. “The [Association County Commissioners of Georgia] told me they have never seen anything like it [the number of candidates].”

Starnes is one of the candidates running for the position. Other candidates are Frank Adams, who is retired; Jason Griffin, a residential contractor; Paul Hall, a Lotus Domino administrator; Jim Hazel, a land clearer; Greg E. Hogan, who works in trucking and forestry; Larry E. Morrison, who is self-employed; Steven Noland, who works in sales; Brittany D. Pittman, a financial manager; Ricky L. Pritchett, director of operations; Bruce Reed, who works for a lumber company; Stephen Richards, a civil engineer; Dwight Scott, a builder; Johnny Stover, president of Floods Auto Parts; and Leonard “Leo” Worley, IT worker for Shaw Industries, according to applications submitted to the election commission.

In the most recent sole commissioner’s race, four people — two Republicans and two Democrats — ran in the primary elections.

The special election is nonpartisan, but candidates can declare a party if they choose to do so. Steven Nolan, a Republican, was the only candidate to do that.

Since Ridley’s resignation, a number of people had said they were running and posted election signs around the county, but official qualifying for the race began Wednesday and ended Friday at noon.

Candidates paid $2,106.83 to qualify for the position. To win, a candidate must receive 50 percent of the ballots plus one vote, an outcome that is not likely with so many candidates.

If no one receives 50 percent of the vote, a run-off election between the two top candidates will be held on July 19, according to Connie Winkler, who serves as chairwoman of the Board of Elections. It costs the county about $10,000 to hold an election.

The position of sole commissioner pays a salary of $98,174. A normal term is four years, but since this is a special election, whoever wins will serve until December 2012.

Starnes said Friday that he was not aware of any new developments regarding the EEOC complaint against Ridley.

The county was notified of that complaint on April 6. It alleges Ridley forced a county employee to commit sex acts and viewed pornography on her computer.

Murray County Attorney Greg Kinnamon has said lawyers for the county’s insurance company are handling the complaint and the county’s response.

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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