ATLANTA -- State Rep. Winfred Dukes said Monday local legislation that would allow the four members of the Legislature who represent Albany and Dougherty County to appoint a member of the local Board of Elections and Registration had passed in the House and was on track to receive Gov. Nathan Deal's signature and become law.
Local officials, and one of Dukes' colleagues in Atlanta, however, weren't so sure of the measure that would allow the legislators to select the fifth member of the elections board rather than continue to have that member selected by the four other board members. The local Republican and Democratic parties and the city and county commissions each appoint one member of the board.
"We've had to deal with some election issues in Dougherty County lately, and that's become a concern of the (local) delegation," Dukes, D-Albany, said in a phone interview Monday morning. "Rep. (Carol) Fullerton, Sen. (Freddie Powell) Sims, Rep. (Gerald) Greene and myself have discussed this issue and feel that we can add value to that board (by becoming involved in the process).
"It seems that board has developed an incestuous kind of relationship and is in need of a change. I talked with the mayor and chairman of the county commission and neither seemed to have any serious heartburn with it, so we moved the process forward."
The legislation passed in the House late Friday and was being considered in the Senate Monday. Even as it was moving through that process, though, County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard and Fullerton, D-Albany, said Monday they were surprised to learn that the local legislation had made its way through the House.
"I met with Rep. Dukes a while ago and he briefly mentioned (the proposed legislation)," Sinyard said. "I told him I had some concerns with it, and the conversation turned to something else. I hadn't heard anything else about it, and I have to admit I was surprised when it was mentioned today."
County Attorney Spencer Lee informed commissioners of the proposed legislation during the commission's work session Monday morning, leading Commissioner Lamar Hudgins to remark, "They wouldn't do this and not tell us, would they?"
Lee replied, after a pause, "They did."
Fullerton said Monday afternoon she had not signed off on the legislation and would be surprised to see the governor sign it.
"Not only did I not sign this piece of legislation, I don't intend to sign it," she said. "I frankly don't think this is something we ought to get into. I don't know if the Senate has passed this measure, but I do know if there is concern about it the governor is not likely to sign it.
"I don't understand really why Gerald (Greene) signed off on the legislation."
Neither Greene, R-Cuthbert, Sims, D-Dawson, nor Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard had responded to messages seeking comment for this article Monday by The Herald's press time.
The primary question that a number of local officials, several of whom spoke off the record, had with the proposed legislation is that it was not discussed extensively with local city or county leaders. Dukes said that is not a requirement.
"Yes, generally local legislation in the House originates with local leaders, but that is not a requirement," he said. "Frankly, (legislators) are the ones who are responsible for such legislation. We don't really need someone else to tell us what our duties are; we're not subject to local governments.
"When I heard no objection from the mayor and commission chairman, I didn't think this would be much of an issue."
Alan Pendleton, who currently serves as chair of the Dougherty Board of Elections and Registration, said he did not have enough information to comment on the legislation itself. But he did express disappointment that the matter had not been discussed more locally.
"My reaction is basically one of surprise," Pendleton said. "I'm surprised that Mr. Dukes -- or any of the other members of our delegation who supported this measure -- didn't have the courtesy to come discuss it with somebody in Dougherty County before doing this.
"Frankly, I'm disappointed in the lack of courtesy shown by all members of the delegation who might have had a part in this."