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NB's The Nyle Magazine

Monday, October 08, 2012



Published October 8, 2012

“Ex-Fulton County, GA, election director gets two years probation”

by Nathan’ette Burdine-Follow on Twitter@nbnylemagazine

           On September 24, 2012, the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections learned that the director of registration and elections, Samuel Westmoreland, was in more trouble with the law than he had previously revealed.  Marcus K. Garner and Johnny Edwards, of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, stated in their article “Fulton elections chief jailed” that Westmoreland was arrested on September 14, 2012, on suspicion of DUI.  The arrest was a violation of his 2009 DUI probation.  The judge sentenced Westmoreland to 10-days in jail and he was scheduled for release on September 24, 2012.  However, Westmoreland’s release was postponed.  According to Tom Jones’, of WSBTV Action News 2, article, “Election board:  Director hid probation violation on DUI,” Westmoreland’s release was postponed because it was later learned that he violated his probation terms associated with a 2008 DUI case.  It was also later learned that a Laurens County judge issued a bench warrant, associated with the 2008 case, for Westmoreland’s arrest on the same day, September 14, 2012, that he was arrested on suspicion of DUI .  Jones stated that the bench warrant was issued because Westmoreland failed to complete drug court.  The board stated that Westmoreland did not mention the probation violation associated with the 2008 or the 2009 DUI cases.  The chair of the board, Rod Edmond, told Jones that the board was aware of the arrest but not the probation violations in Alpharetta or Laurens County.  Jones quoted Edmond as saying, “We had no idea that he was slated to go and be incarcerated on September 14.  There was some communications about him being with his mom and taking care of an ailing mom.”  Due to the information concerning the probation violations, the board made it clear that Westmoreland had no other choice but to leave his position as Fulton County’s director of registration and elections.

Westmoreland had the option of leaving the easy way, resigning, or the hard way, being fired.  He decided on the easy way and gave his resignation to the board on September 24, 2012.  And according to Jones, the board made the decision that if Westmoreland had decided to rescind his resignation, then the board would have a special meeting and fire him.  According to the Fulton County press release, “Board of Commissioners Approves Samuel Westmoreland as Director of Registration and Elections,”  Westmoreland is a civil rights attorney who has won several notable anti-discrimination cases in Georgia and Mississippi.  Westmoreland also helped to start the Mississippi Housing Law Clinic.  He has won the American Jurisprudence Award and the New York Southern Society’s Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award.  However, Westmoreland’s accomplishments as an attorney aren’t enough to overshadow the fact that the board’s decision to hire him, back in March 2012, was not in the county’s best interest. 

Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts has expressed his non-support for Westmoreland’s hiring.  According to Jones, Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts stated that he was not aware of Westmoreland’s prior criminal history.  Pitts wondered what went wrong during the process.  Jones quoted Pitts as saying, “And how this could happen is of some concern and needs to be addressed going forward.”  From Pitts’ perspective, the writing was on the wall that hiring Westmoreland was not in the best interest of the county.  Westmoreland’s prior convictions proved enough to at least make the board take a second look.  The decisions Westmoreland made were not sound.  He showed himself to be a person who does not think about his actions and the effect on others.  This was evident in his 2008 and 2009 arrest and his mismanagement of the elections department that resulted in a fine by Georgia’s election board.

The first sign that Westmoreland may be a problem occurred three years before he became the interim director of registration and elections.  According to the Fulton County press release, Westmoreland was made the interim director, July 2011, of registration and elections.  Jones stated that in 2008 Westmoreland caused a car crash in Laurens County, Georgia.  According to Jones, Westmoreland pleaded guilty to DUI and having prescription drugs in his system.  Garner and Edwards stated that on December 23, 2009, Westmoreland was pulled over in Alpharetta, Georgia.  He was charged with DUI, not staying in his lane, and driving with an out of date tag.  Yet, despite this information, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners did not look somewhere else for a director of registration and elections.  According to Fulton County’s press release, on March 7, 2012, the board approved of Westmoreland becoming the permanent director of elections and registration.  And it would only take approximately three months, from his March 2012 hiring, for Westmoreland to receive negative attention because of his mismanagement of the election department. 

Garner and Edwards noted that the Georgia Secretary of State office has five open investigations associated with Westmoreland’s tenure as the director of registrationa nd elections in Fulton County.  According to Garner and Edwards, Democratic State Senator Vincent Fort “strongly” expressed his disappointment to Westmoreland about his untimely decision to mail out 2400 letters, in June 2012, to registered voters, informing them that their names would be removed from the voters’ roll.  The voters had not updated their addresses and their residence continued to show up as a torn down public housing building.  State Senator Fort took issue with the time in which Westmoreland notified the voters.  Garner and Edwards noted that the federal election, U.S. Senate race, was 90 days away.  So federal law prohibited Westmoreland from removing the voters’ names within the 90-day period.  Westmoreland stated that he wasn’t to blame.  He pointed his finger at Georgia’s secretary of state, Brian P. Kemp.  According to Garner and Edwards, Westmoreland stated that Secretary of State Brian Kemp threaten to hold the county accountable for the misinformation on the voters rolls.  Hence, the secretary of state was holding Westmoreland accountable for failing to update the voters’ information in a timely manner.  However, Westmoreland’s problems did not stop there and he continued to have problems with deadlines.  Garner and Edwards noted that the election department, which Westmoreland was over, faced fines by the state election board.  The election department missed the deadline to certify the election results for the July primary.  During the July primary, Fulton County elections department wrongly assigned 690 voters to the U.S. Senate and Georgia House races.  As a result, the election department had to correct its mistake.  Thus, the time it took for the department to correct its mistake resulted in the department missing the certification deadline, by an hour and a half, and being fined by the state election board. 

Commissioner Bill Edwards had had enough of Samuel Westmoreland.  The national elections are less than two months away and the state and county doesn’t want a national embarrassment on their hands.  Westmoreland has already received unwanted attention for his arrests and his slip-ups in the U.S. Senate and Georgia House races during the July primary.  Garner and Edwards quoted Bill Edwards as saying, “He needs to be gone.  It just goes to your character.”  Edmond told Garner and Edwards that Westmoreland’s duties would be taken over by Registration Chief Sharon Mitchell.  Edmond also stated that the board is seeking outside consultants to help with the November Presidential election.  On September 28, 2012, Johnny Edwards, of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, wrote in his article “Former elections director gets two years on probation” that a Superior Court judge sentenced Westmoreland to two years probation for violating his probation terms associated with the 2008 case.  Edwards further noted that Westmoreland was released from the Laurens County jail on Saturday, September 29, 2012.







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