SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The Chatham County Board of Elections passed a motion to challenge the qualifications of a Chatham County Commission candidate.
The board chairman stated during Monday’s meeting that Tony Riley, a candidate for 2nd District Chatham County Commissioner, has a felony conviction on his record for conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
In a 3 to 2 vote, the Board of Elections decided to hold a hearing on Riley’s qualifications.
The information regarding Riley’s past was gathered over the weeks following the August runoff election by the local lead of the Georgia Coalition of the People’s Agenda. Carry Smith says two candidates she voted for in the Aug. 11 runoff in Chatham County didn’t win. So, a few days later, she began researching the candidates who would be on the ballot in November.
“I researched the County Commission chair race, I researched the district attorney race, and then I also researched the district two race as a resident of district two,” Smith said.
Smith says she spent the better part of the next two months looking at candidate qualification information and doing online searches. While doing an internet search for Riley, Smith says she found what appeared to be a past conviction that wasn’t listed on Riley’s candidate affidavit.
“I saw nothing. He didn’t have any acknowledgement of any prior convictions,” Smith said.
WTOC requested Riley’s candidate qualifying forms to independently verify and have yet to receive it.
Monday night, the Chatham County Board of Elections chairman told us if Riley was released from prison in 2011 like documents Smith provided say, he could be disqualified. But Riley will have a chance to defend himself in the hearing conducted by the election’s superintendent.
“This is an opportunity for him to present information that we would not know. Because he’s going to have documents that maybe we’re not privy to, and this is a hearing,” Smith said.
According to the election’s chairman, the Qualifications Hearing has been rescheduled to Oct. 27. A location and time will be determined.
In this election cycle, the political parties qualified candidates.
The Chairman of the Chatham County Democratic Committee says if background checks are needed, the qualifying process has to change.
“If you want to fix the issue, you change the qualification process and say we’re the ones who need to go through all the deep digging or you give us the funds where we can go out there and do the background check but all we do is qualify," said Chatham County Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jones.
Jones says during this process the committee accepts a candidate’s information and declaration. He also says those items are then given to the Board of Elections.
Jones says he would like the board to decide Riley’s fate after this election cycle.
“I’m asking the Board of Elections to do, is to just let this election cycle go through and then whatever needs to be done after the election cycle that’s what we do. But don’t take away from the people in the second district the opportunity to vote for the two candidates.”
WTOC has learned a qualification challenge has also been submitted against the Republican Candidate Larry “Gator” Rivers.
The Board of Elections is looking into the legitimacy of the challenge.