Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Election on Hold Disqualified Darien Candidate Appeals Residency Issue

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Election on Hold Disqualified Darien Candidate Appeals Residency Issue

Article excerpt

DARIEN -- It will be at least 10 days and likely longer before the city learns if it will be compelled to place the Rev. Griffin Lotson's name on a ballot for a special mayoral election against incumbent David Bluestein.

With Lotson disqualified, Darien held no election a week ago because Bluestein and all four city councilmen were unopposed for re-election.

Superior Court Judge Ronnie Rahn conducted a hearing yesterday on Lotson's appeal of his Oct. 26 disqualification over his failure to meet a 12-month residency requirement.

During the hearing, Rahn said he will not revisit a decision by temporary election superintendent Cecil S. Little to disqualify Lotson. Rahn said he will decide, however, if the Darien City Council acted properly in appointing Little and whether Lotson was properly informed of an Oct. 25 hearing that Little conducted.

If Lotson prevails, Rahn said he may set aside Little's finding and order another hearing on Lotson's residency.

Although he came away without a decision in his favor, Lotson was pleased with the outcome.

"I live to fight another day. Thank God for that," he said.

As part of his platform, Lotson has said he would seek government grants to help improve Darien. He would also like to see a high school student serve as honorary mayor one day per month.

There have been several legal stops along the way to the latest hearing.

Originally, four Darien voters challenged Lotson's candidacy because he did not live in the city for 12 months before Election Day. After questions on whether the challenge was filed in time, Dot Googe, Darien's election superintendent, city clerk and voter registrar, filed the challenge herself.

But Googe withdrew as election superintendent after Lotson said her many roles with the city would make her biased in the matter.

The City Council asked the McIntosh County Board of Elections to conduct a hearing on Lotson's residency, but that panel declined.

The City Council then turned to Little, chairman the Glynn County Board of Elections, who sent out a notice Oct. 21 that he would hear the matter Oct. 25.

Lotson's lawyer, Jim Chamberlin, argued yesterday that not only was Little's notice filed too late for Lotson to properly prepare, it did not inform him that his residency was at issue. …

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