Originally created 09/09/06

Challenger presents Few residency papers



A challenger to Augusta mayoral candidate Ronnie Few's candidacy said Friday that Mr. Few filed homestead exemption twice in Columbia County the past three years but swore on his qualifying form that he had been a legal resident of Richmond County the past 6 years.

Woody Merry, who filed letters with the Richmond County Board of Elections on Wednesday challenging Mr. Few's residency, presented homestead exemption applications signed by Mr. Few on June 2, 2003, and April 20, 2006, swearing he occupied a house at 204 Mineral Court in Evans.

He also handed out copies of Mr. Few's notice of candidacy and affidavit stating he has lived in Richmond County the past 6 years.

"We have three signed affidavits," Mr. Merry said during Friday's news conference. "All three of them have conflicting information. Two say he's a resident of Columbia County. One is dated as late as April '06. One affidavit says he a resident of Richmond County, and it's dated August of '06."

Under Augusta's consolidation law, a candidate for mayor must have lived in Richmond County for one year before the election. And Georgia law states that wherever a person declares a homestead exemption is his legal residence.

"Because he filed a homestead exemption in Columbia County in 2006, he is not a resident of Richmond County and cannot run for mayor," said Joe Neal Jr., Mr. Merry's attorney.

Mr. Neal said he would think that Mr. Few would step down after being presented with the evidence.

"We think he should just withdraw from the race," Mr. Neal said. "Why make a fool out of yourself?"

Mr. Merry said Mr. Few runs a "terrible risk of some serious legal consequences."

"When you're manipulating tax law to personally gain money in your pocket, it's not going to be tolerated," said Mr. Merry, the founder of the political watchdog group CSRAHelp.

Mr. Neal said Mr. Few's case is more clear-cut than that of former interim Augusta District 4 Commissioner Keith Brown.

Mr. Brown resigned two weeks ago after the Richmond County Board of Elections ruled his name would not be on the Nov. 7 special election ballot because he did not meet residency requirements.

In response to a question about whether it concerned him that Mr. Few is a candidate for mayor and can't sign forms properly, Mr. Merry said, "Absolutely. We need our leadership to be accountable for their actions. We need our future leadership to understand there are consequences when you make mistakes, when you make mistakes that involve the law."

This is not the first time the issue of a candidate's residency has come up, and it will not be tolerated, Mr. Merry said.

"This stuff is over," he said. "We find out about it, we're bringing it to attention."

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.

WHAT'S NEXT:

The Richmond County Board of Elections will consider challenges to Mr. Few's candidacy during its regular board meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, to determine whether a hearing is warranted.