August 24, 2006
The man appointed to fill a seat on the Augusta Commission cannot legally run for that same seat in November.
The Board of Elections weighed the legal issues and decided Keith Brown does not meet all the requirements to run for the city Commission in November.
This has been a long battle. But the Board of Elections decided tonight that the man who's been serving District 4 since May won't be able to do so much longer.
It's a ruling that caught him by surprise.
"I would say shocked, yes, I would say shocked," Brown said.
After three hours of deliberating, the Richmond County Board of Elections issued a unanimous decision.
"We have voted Mr. Brown does not meet the qualifications to seek the office of City commission for District 4," said board chair Linda Beasley.
District 4 Commission candidate Alvin Mason, who filed a formal complaint against Keith Brown, got the outcome he's wanted for weeks.
"I know I'm comfortable in knowing what I've done is the right thing," he said. "This wasn't a split decision. It was unanimous."
Brown's disqualification comes after three and a half hours of heated, sworn testimony that started with Mason's attorney, Freddy Sanders, calling Brown to testify.
Sanders targeted the fact that Brown voted in South Carolina in 2004, and he got Brown to admit he did not get a Georgia driver's license until June of this year.
Sanders: "What made you go get it in June 2006? Was it because all of this was coming out?"
Brown: "I was not aware any of this was coming up."
Sanders: "In June of 2006, you were not aware of there might be a question of your residency?"
Brown: "No, sir."
Brown's attorney, Jack Long, fought back with witnesses speaking in his defense, including his landlord, his wife, and even his priest. Long also presented documents like bank statements, IRS papers, and lease agreements showing brown as a Georgia resident.
But according to the board, the fact that Brown voted in South Carolina and had nothing to show he reestablished his Georgia residency by the deadline made this a more clear decision.
"Under the evidence presented, Mr. Brown is not qualified to run for election in November 2006," said Tim Moses, vice chairman of the Board of Elections.
Mason took the opportunity to look forward to November. "The people will have an opportunity to decide now who they want to represent them," he said.
Brown was left with a decision to make. "I think at this point, what I will do is discuss it with my family tomorrow," he said. "I have a meeting with my attorney, and discuss what my plan of action will be from this point on."
One of those options is appealing this decision to the Superior Court.
While Brown cannot run in November, he can still keep his seat on the commission until then, and he says he plans to. Brown was appointed to his seat by the Commission, not elected, so the Board of Elections doesn't have the authority to remove him from office. Instead, the Commission itself would have to vote him out.
With Brown's disqualification, two names will be on the ballot for the District 4 seat in November: Bernard Harper and Alvin Mason.