Assistant City Manager Wes Smith talks to the Albany City Commission about delaying plans to redraw the city wards until after a challenge to the Ward II election is decided in court. The
commission tentatively voted to move forward over staff’s recommendation.
ALBANY ALBANY — Albany city commissioners voted 5-1 Tuesday to move forward with redistricting over the recommendation of city staff and the city attorney, who had asked the commission to wait until a pending legal challenge to the Ward II race could be settled.
Assistant City Manager Wes Smith told commissioners Tuesday morning that, after consulting with City Attorney Nathan Davis, the staff’s recommendation was to wait until the ongoing legal challenge for the Ward II race, which is currently being waged in Dougherty Superior Court, is over.
But Ward II Commissioner Ivey Hines, the former candidate who narrowly won the seat now being contested, balked at the idea of waiting.
“I thought the reason I was sworn is was so that I could give the people of Ward II a voice at this table and now you’re telling me that it would be inappropriate to take action,” Hines said.
City Manager James Taylor responded, “We’re not saying that it is inappropriate to move forward, we’re saying that we don’t believe it be prudent to do so when we’re under no real time crunch to do it. But we’ll move forward if that’s the wish of this commission.”
Hines and Dougherty County Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson are the named defendants in a formal election challenge brought by candidate Melissa Strother.
Strother contends that there were a series of voting irregularities with the November 2011 election stemming from the disqualification of a third candidate, who was allowed to qualify for the Ward II race despite the fact that the candidate lived in Ward I.
Judge Joe Bishop is expected to rule on the matter any day, but an appeal of his ruling is likely.
Ward IV Commissioner Roger Marietta supported Hines, saying that he felt there was no real reason to wait on the redistricting process.
The lone dissenter was Ward V Commissioner Bob Langstaff. Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell was absent from the meeting.
Linda Meggers, the former head of redistricting for the Georgia General Assembly, has already drawn up two map proposals using population data from the 2010 census for commissioners to consider.
Ward II, along with Wards V and III, are expected to be significantly redrawn.
Meggers assisted when the Dougherty County Commission and the Dougherty County School Board redrew their common districts last year in preparation for commission and School Board elections this year.
Municipal elections don’t come around again until 2013, so there is ample time to redraw those lines, city staff said.