ALBANY, Ga. -- Gov. Nathan Deal removed Dougherty County School Board member Velvet Riggins from office last week, agreeing with an independent tribunal that her grand jury indictment in April on charges of filing false school lunch applications affected her ability to serve on the board.
In his executive order suspending Riggins, Deal specified that her seat would remain vacant "until the end of her term or the resolution of the charges, whichever comes first."
Riggins, however, is running unopposed in November's elections for the District 3 School Board seat and will retain her position unless she is convicted of the felony charges that have been filed against her.
Asked Monday when a possible trial date will take place, South Georgia Assistant District Attorney Heather Lainer said the date was yet to be determined.
"Ms. Riggins' attorney (Mark Brimberry) has filed several motions with Judge (Stephen) Goss, who has yet to set a motion hearing," Lanier said.
The timing of a trial matters because of Section 45-5-6 (i) of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, which reads:
"If a public official who is suspended from office under the provisions of this Code section is not first tried at the next regular or special term following the indictment, the suspension shall be terminated and the public official shall be reinstated to office. The public official shall not be reinstated under this subsection if he is not so tried based on a continuance granted upon a motion made only by the defendant."
"We are aware of the time constraints under the statute," Lanier said.
Riggins appeared before a three-member review commission appointed by the governor last month. That tribunal, consisting of two school board members from outside Dougherty County and an assistant state attorney general, recommended her removal from office until the charges were resolved.
The Albany Herald learned during a candidate interview with at-large School Board member Anita Williams-Brown last week that Dougherty School Board members wrote letters to the commission in regard to Riggins' nearly four-year tenure on the board. A source close to the School Board said that all six of the active board members and Superintendent Joshua Murfree each wrote a letter on the subject. Riggins hand-delivered those letters to the tribunal at the time of her interview.
Her suspension has also spawned a grassroots effort and an online petition to urge the governor to name former mayoral candidate and businesswoman B.J. Fletcher as an interim board member to fill Riggins' empty seat.
A spokesperson for the governor said Friday, however, that Deal had no plans to name a replacement to fill the seat.