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Residency challenged in school board race

Candidate Robert E. Adams Jr. filed a petition to challenge the residency of Charles R. Garrard, the incumbent for the school board District 4 seat. The hearing was held Friday, March 21 at 1 p.m. in the courthouse under the direction of probate judge Lynn Brandenburg. The judge ruled that Garrard meets the statutory requirements to be qualified for the District 4 seat. ’There has been no evidence provided that shows he lives elsewhere,’ said Brandenburg. Adams asked for transcripts of the hearing and said after the hearing he plans to appeal the ruling. Brandenburg stated during the hearing that Pike County has $9,000 worth of ballots waiting to be sent out. The case could cost the county thousands of dollars if the special election date is changed due to the appeal. Adams alleged Garrard does not meet state requirements to run for office, stating that he has not lived at his Molena address for the past five years and did not qualify for the position due to lack of residency when he was appointed by members of the school board in 2013. ’Mr. Garrard doesn’t meet the requirements for residency and I’ve heard from people who live in the neighborhood that he has not lived there for years,’ said Adams. ‘Mr. Garrard has returned to Pike County temporarily to run for election. He did not file for election in 2012 because he did not have residency.’ Judge Brandenburg heard from both parties. Garrard presented numerous pieces of evidence ‘“ from tax and insurance bills to bank statements ‘“ to prove his residency at his Main Street, Molena house. Garrard says he has painted and renovated the home and maintains the yard. ’I have property in my name in Pike County and in other places but I lay my head down at night at my home,’ said Garrard. ‘It doesn’t mean I’m there every night but that has been my residence since 1988. My wife got cancer two years ago and I bought my wife’s mother’s house so I could give it to her. I don’t live there but I do go there to cut the grass. I’ve never once lived there as a residence.’ Adams contested the school board district elections held July 31, 2012 and Aug. 21, 2012, stating Pike did not complete redistricting as needed before the election. The case was dismissed. Another case was filed in December over the same issue, with Adams, Patricia A. Beckham, Martha J. O’Neal and Betty Willis vs. the school district, Lynn Brandenburg in his official capacity as elections superintendent and Walter James ‘Jim’ Brooks. The case was appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court. As a result, Brooks was vacated from the school board District 4 position Aug. 28, 2013 and the position was advertised. The school board appointed Garrard from the pool of applicants received. In the 2012 school board election, Adams received a total of 69 votes while Brooks received 245 and Connie Green received 195. Brooks and Green went on to a runoff election with Brooks emerging as the winner.

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