Fort Oglethorpe council members have approved $5,000 in attorney fees for the city’s elections chief, who is embroiled in a lawsuit.
The suit, filed by citizen Steve Cooper, claims Orma Luckey was biased and abused her powers during the most recent election.
Cooper alleges Luckey should not have allowed candidate Charles Sharrock to be on the ballot for an election held in November. Sharrock was removed from his council seat in 2012 following allegations he sexually harassed female city employees.
Chris Townley with Townley Law Office of Rossville will represent Luckey.
City manager Ron Goulart said the city’s attorney is not representing Luckey because “her decision (regarding Sharrock) was inconsistent with the opinion of the city attorney.”
Both the city and Luckey’s attorney are asking that the suit be dismissed.
In the suit, filed in Catoosa County Superior Court, Cooper is challenging Luckey’s decision allowing Sharrock remain a candidate in the special election Nov. 4. Though the election has already been conducted and Sharrock received less that 22 percent of the votes, Cooper still seeks a decision regarding the legitimacy of Sharrock’s candidacy as well as the election superintendent’s decision to allow Sharrock to be a candidate and actions during the election.
Sharrock was removed from office in November 2012 for the alleged sexual harassment of three female city employees. The council voted to remove him from the Ward 4 seat following a public hearing on the allegations against him. His removal was appealed and Catoosa County Superior Court judge Jon B. Wood upheld the council’s decision to remove him.
Luckey’s decision to allow Sharrock to be a candidate was released Oct. 17. Cooper filed a 13-page appeal in Superior Court on Oct. 27. The suit lists the city of Fort Oglethorpe, Luckey and Sharrock as defendants. Each defendant has 45 days from the date served to respond.
The suit alleges that Luckey was biased in her decision to allow Sharrock to be a candidate, saying she paid for the ballots with her own money after a challenge of Sharrock’s qualifications was made. The suit also argues that Luckey denied Cooper’s rights of due process by not allowing Sharrock to be questioned during a public hearing on Oct. 9.
The suit alleges Luckey’s abuse of power and bias because she ordered the ballots with Sharrock’s name as a candidate prior to the public hearing. Also, the suit argues, Luckey did not allow Sharrock to be questioned during the hearing and then waited until after early voting began to issue an opinion on Sharrock’s qualifications.
Early voting began Oct. 14.
“Luckey has purposefully and intentionally conducted (an) illegal election containing the name of a candidate that is not qualified to be on the ballot,” the appeal states.
The suit asks the court to find that Sharrock is not qualified to serve the remainder of his term. It also asks for an opinion stating Sharrock was appropriately removed from office for malfeasance and that Sharrock committed acts of perjury when he signed the candidate qualifying forms stating that he has never been convicted or sentenced in any court of competent jurisdiction for malfeasance in office.
Cooper and his attorneys ask the court to further determine whether Luckey’s hearing was contrary to the law by denying Cooper’s right to call witnesses. “Luckey’s actions are illegal and a violation of the Georgia election code and the city of Fort Oglethorpe,” the suit reads.
“Luckey was biased, prejudiced and denied Cooper his due process rights… As such, she committed acts of misfeasance and malfeasance of office and she is not fit to serve in the office to which she was appointed as she has purposefully and intentionally violated the Georgia election code by placing Sharrock’s name illegally on the ballot.”
Luckey has maintained through the entire time that she hasn’t done anything illegal. She conducted the hearing with an open mind, she said. Luckey said she has purchase orders from March where she paid for election materials out of her own money, an action she is allowed to perform she explained.
Both Luckey and the city responded to the appeal earlier this month. The city’s response is unique because it admits agreement with most of the claims listed. Because there are no complaints against the city, they are asking for the suit to be dismissed.
Luckey said her attorney has also submitted a request for the suit to be dismissed.