Deputies seek Chatham County official

Mayor pro tem of Port Wentworth fails to turn himself in
Hogan

PORT WENTWORTH, Ga. -- A Chatham County Sheriff's deputy tried unsuccessfully all day Tuesday to find and arrest Port Wentworth Mayor Pro Tem Vincent Hogan.

Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Michelle Gavin said Hogan called late Tuesday afternoon to say he would turn himself in on charges that he falsified election documents. As of late Tuesday, he had not surrendered to authorities.

The Chatham County grand jury has charged Hogan with hiding his criminal past in order to run for City Council.

Hogan has said he told his fellow councilmen that he had been in trouble with the law, but council members say they had no idea how serious that trouble was.

 

The crime

In 1999, Hogan pleaded guilty to federal charges that he Fed Ex-ed $116,820 in counterfeit $20 bills from Atlanta to New York, Georgia Northern District court documents show. Judge Marvin Shoob sentenced him to five years probation with six months in home confinement, 500 hours community service and a $3,000 fine in December of that year.

Hogan was going by the name Vincent Munson at the time.

Council members said Hogan told them he had been convicted of counterfeiting, but minimized the charges.

"He told me that he had a bar in Atlanta and that someone passed $40, two counterfeit twenties, and that he used them at a Harris Teeter store and a Chick-fil-A and got caught for that and that's what they arrested him for," Councilman Gary Norton said.

According to the transcript from his Georgia Northern District sentencing hearing, Hogan turned himself in to federal authorities in 1998, after spending five days in jail in Charleston for passing a fake $20 bill at a Harris Teeter grocery store.

Hogan was convicted on two counts of forgery in South Carolina, in addition to the federal conviction. He was sentenced to 20 months of probation and still owes the state of South Carolina $103 in 12-year-old fines for court costs, according to Charleston County court records.

 

New charges

On Dec. 22, the Chatham County grand jury charged Hogan with false swearing on the notice of candidacy and affidavit, a document he was required to sign when he ran for office.

Under Georgia law, a person convicted of moral turpitude is not eligible to run for office until 10 years after completing the sentence for the crime. Hogan's probation didn't end until 2004. The person's civil rights also must be restored before running.

The notice of candidacy, signed by Hogan on Sept. 2, 2009, swears that he met those requirements.

Last week, Hogan said he believed he was eligible to run for office because he was sworn in more than 10 years after he pleaded guilty to the federal charges. Although the indictment says Hogan's civil rights had not been restored, Hogan claims they had. He said he became eligible to vote again in the early 2000s.

Hogan voted in the November general election, according to Chatham County's voter records.

Although he does not dispute his three prior convictions, Hogan said last week that he will plead "not guilty" to the grand jury's charges. He did not return multiple calls for comment made Monday and Tuesday.

Port Wentworth City Council members say Hogan told them in November that he would step down from his position as mayor pro tem. They cited fallout from a July 5 incident in which he told a woman at a Savannah Tea Party event that she "should have been aborted" as the reason for his planned resignation.

Council members said they are confident Hogan will step down from the pro tem post, which puts him second-in-line to become Port Wentworth's mayor.

If not, some council members said they plan to remove him from the pro tem post.

"We're waiting to see whether or not he's going to live up to his word," Councilman James Curry said. "If not, then we're going to take action."

 

Consequences

If Hogan is convicted of false swearing, a felony, Georgia law requires that he immediately be removed from office.

False swearing is punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 or one to five years in prison, or both. As a repeat felon, Hogan would be subject to the maximum sentence.

But Hogan could be removed from office before the case even goes to trial. If a charge is related to a public official's duties, Georgia law requires the district attorney to forward the indictment to the governor, who appoints a commission to review whether the indictment "relates to and adversely affects" the official's public duties.

Gov. Sonny Perdue's spokesman, Bert Brantley, said Tuesday the governor's office had not received Hogan's indictment "and therefore cannot move forward."

If the governor's office does not take action, state law also allows voters to petition to recall Hogan's election.

Georgia Municipal Association spokeswoman Amy Henderson said that a recall, a conviction or removal by the governor's commission are the only ways state law allows city officials to be taken out of office.

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