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The Nyle Magazine
Monday, October 08, 2012
October 8, 2012
“Ex-Fulton County, GA, election
director gets two years probation”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.