His namesake parted the Red Sea, but the efforts of Civil Court marshal candidate Moses McCauley to disqualify the office's incumbent are just muddying the waters, Richmond County Board of Elections members said Friday.
Mr. McCauley and his campaign manager - attorney Evita Paschall - last week filed a complaint with local and state officials protesting that Marshal Steve Smith has been allowed to continue on the city's payroll while running for office.
The city attorney's office responded to that letter Monday, saying Mr. Smith, by virtue of the legislation that changed the marshal's office from an appointed position to an elected one, is an incumbent official, not a city employee. The Board of Elections upheld that decision Friday by taking no action.
"In general, we occasionally see (a candidate) try to run on a technicality like this," board member Aaron Battle said. "In this case, this was a pretty interesting one."
All three marshal's candidates are on the local government's payroll: Mr. McCauley as an employment manager in the human resources department, John Gray as a task force commander with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office, and Mr. Smith as marshal. City policy states that any city employee who runs for public office must take a leave of absence without pay on the day of qualification.
Mr. McCauley contends Mr. Smith should be disqualified for continuing to work for the city while running a campaign.
"I'm not crying foul; I'm just saying, is that fair?" Mr. McCauley said. "What Mr. Smith is doing is - he is allowing the taxpayers to supplement his campaign, and that's not right, rule or no rule."
But elections officials said if the law had intended to keep incumbents from serving while running for office, it would have specified that provision.
"Because the individuals in this county have an opportunity to run for office, it's one of their rights to voice their opinions, and when that opinion is voiced, it's our duty to respond," said Timothy McFalls, the chairman of the elections board.
But the board's response will be limited to letting the city attorney's decision stand.
"We refuse to be used as political pawns," Mr. McFalls said.
Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215.
|Augusta voters will have three candidates for marshal Nov. 6.|