The Rev. Ivey Hines repeats the oath of office from Municipal Court Judge Willie Weaver while standing next to his wife Martha Tuesday night. Hines took the oath and took his seat at the Albany City Commission table Tuesday amid a contested election that is still playing out in court.
ALBANY, Ga. — The Rev. Ivey Hines swore the oath to become an Albany City Commissioner and took his seat on the board Tuesday night, even as the city attorney cautioned that the move may not be final due to a pending legal action still before the courts.
Hines was declared the winner of the Nov. 8 race by a narrow margin after all votes cast for candidate Cheryl Calhoun were tossed. Calhoun was declared ineligible as a candidate. She was disqualified under Georgia law when it was determined that she lives in Ward I.
Calhoun maintains that she originally intended to qualify for the Ward I race but was told by Elections officials that she lived in Ward II, which was later proven to be incorrect.
Candidate Melissa Strother filed a legal challenge to the election in Dougherty Superior Court Friday citing irregularities stemming from Calhoun’s disqualification that rippled through the election process and called into question the results of the race.
Before the commission issued a declaration acknowledging the results of the race, City Attorney Nathan Davis explained that state law allows for the swearing-in of an official even while an official legal challenge has been made, but he said that the move could be overturned by a judge.
“State law anticipates situations like this. ... What happens tonight is not final, no,” Davis told the commission.
That law, O.C.G.A. 21-2-503 (b), states “A person elected to a municipal office may be sworn into office notwithstanding that the election of such person may be contested in the manner provided by this chapter. Upon the final judgment of the proper tribunal having jurisdiction of a contested election which orders a second election or declares that another person was legally elected to the office, the person sworn into municipal office shall cease to hold the office and shall cease to exercise the powers, duties, and privileges of the office immediately.”
Davis said swearing in Hines would not prevent the court from deliberating on the validity of the election and that if the court ruled Strother to have been the victor or that there needs to be a race between Hines and Strother, that the court order would, in effect, supercede the commission’s action.
That being said, the commission voted 5-0-1, with Ward V Commission Bob Langstaff abstaining, to accept the results of the Ward II race.
Immediately following the vote, Hines swore the oath of office as administered by Municipal Court Judge Willie Weaver and took his seat as the newest Albany City Commissioner.
“It feels great,” Hines said following the meeting. “I finally get some relief, knowing that the situation is still ongoing with the courts. I’m glad that, in the meantime, the people of Ward II have a voice at the table.”
Strother, who was at Tuesday’s meeting, said that Davis’ interpretation of the law was in agreement with the way it had been explained to her by her attorney and that she was eager for the courts to render a decision.
“I understand the concern that Ward II has gone without representation,” Strother said. “I just want to make sure that whoever is representing the ward was voted in fairly and that the person who is entitled to be there is the one people voted for ... that the people’s voice was heard.”
In the City Commission’s pre-briefing, Davis told commissioners that the city is asking for the court to set a hearing no later than Dec. 2 so that the matter is dealt with expeditiously.