Blue Ridge, Ga. – Mayor Donna Whitener was asked to turn in her key to City Hall as council members expressed their concerns over the upcoming election.
“With all that has been going on over the past couple of months, which the public is just now starting to find out about, to be very honest, I don’t know that I feel comfortable with the election that is coming up and not having an unbiased party being over the election,” Council Member Nathan Fitts expressed his feelings on the upcoming election.
Council Member Rhonda Thomas and Fitts both agreed that having outside municipal counsel handle any election related events would be in the best interest of not only the candidates but the City as well.
This proposition comes with the consideration that current City Attorney James Balli is hired to represent City Council members, many of whom will be running in the upcoming election, and therefore might have a biased conflict of interest in any election related matters.
Haight suggested approaching the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) attorneys and getting their legal opinion on the matter.
Fitts agreed with Haight’s recommendation stating, “I know too much. I know the history of the last election. I know things that went on and I do not feel comfortable with it.”
With the request for an outside legal counsel, Haight also requested that the Mayor return her key to City Hall during the election period.
“None of us have keys except for the Mayor and I don’t feel like she should have a key to this building during that election time,” Haight said adding that she doesn’t want any possibility of wrongdoing to occur and jeopardize the election process.
“I have no problem with that,” Mayor Whitener responded to Haight’s request but did point out that there have been emergency occasions when she (Whitener) has had to access the building.
One thing that all council members and mayor did agree upon was to look into third party handling of future elections.
Fitts pointed out that the staff of City Hall, who currently handle city elections, is “put in the middle of way more than they should be”.
While some council members felt it was too late to seek outside handling of the 2021 City Election, they did agree to pursue this route in the future.
The General Election is set to take place on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021 with voting at City Hall. Polls open at 7 a.m. and will close at 7 p.m.