The Carroll County Board of elections on Wednesday disqualified Gerald Powell to be a candidate for mayor of Temple.
The three-member board ruled unanimously that a 1992 conviction for felony sale of marijuana, along with no evidence that Powell has received a restoration of his civil rights from the state, made him ineligible to hold public office, as specified by the state Constitution.
Powell has 10 days to appeal the determination to a Carroll County Superior Court judge. Powell’s name will remain on the ballot for Temple’s Nov. 7 city election during that appeal window, which closes three days before the vote.
After the board made its ruling during a 30-minute hearing on Wednesday, Powell’s attorney, Derek Rouse, said he would have to consult with Powell to decide whether an appeal would be filed.
During the proceeding, Rouse produced what he said was Powell’s criminal record. Those documents, he said, showed a felony case against Powell from Douglas County, but that case had later been reduced to a misdemeanor.
He then produced a document that he said he had obtained from the Carroll County clerk of courts just before the proceeding.
“This shows that there is no criminal record whatsoever dating from 1990 to 1998,” Rouse said. Thus, he argued, there was no evidence from either Douglas or Carroll counties to support the claim that Powell had a felony past conviction.
Attorney David Mecklin, who represented Carroll County in the matter, acknowledged that he had not previously seen the Carroll County document. But he said that in such a proceeding as a candidate challenge, the county had no burden of proof, as in a legal proceeding.
“The case law here in Georgia is that the burden is not upon the county to prove that he is unqualified to run,” Mecklin said. “The burden under case law is for Mr. Powell to prove that he is qualified to run.”
Mecklin argued that there was evidence of a felony conviction of moral turpitude and “no apparent evidence” that Powell’s rights had been restored through a petition to the state board of pardons and paroles.
Mecklin added that he had heard Rouse’s arguments, but told the elections board “I would submit this is not absolute proof that he is qualified.”
Mecklin and County Attorney Stacey Blackmon represented the city in the proceeding because the Temple City Council on Oct. 18 requested that the county represent the city in the qualifications challenge.
The city had obtained information two weeks earlier that Powell might not be qualified to run, an accusation that was investigated by the city’s legal team.
It was the second time questions have been raised against a candidate for the Nov. 7 municipal election.
In September, just after the qualification period for those races ended, a citizen challenged the qualifications of Avanti Helton, who had been one of two candidates seeking the Ward 1 seat being vacated by Ransom. That challenge took place within the window of time available for citizens to make such a challenge.
One day before the challenge was to be heard in a formal hearing similar to the one on Wednesday, Helton withdrew his candidacy.