An Albany resident says he will officially challenge Arthur Williams’ efforts to return to the Albany City Commission today after learning Tuesday that the Georgia Department of Revenue has obtained a judgment to collect back taxes from Williams, to no avail.
Public records also show that Williams provided false information to the Dougherty County Board of Elections upon declaring that he is not in default on tax debts owed to the government.
“I’m just trying to make sure that all players are playing by the rules,” said Lon McNeil, a resident of Ward 3, the district Williams is attempting to represent. “That’s really what this is all about. It’s not about politics. If (City Commissioner) Morris Gurr owed the state of Georgia money and qualified to run when he shouldn’t, then I would challenge his candidacy.
“You can’t run (for office) owing the government money.”
McNeil, a marketing specialist and freelance writer who helped manage Gurr’s successful campaign against Williams in 2005, said he will file an official complaint challenging Williams’ candidacy before the Board of Elections’ regularly scheduled meeting today. Williams and magazine publisher Christopher Pike are the lone candidates for Ward 3 in the Nov. 3 city election.
In an interview, McNeil said that public records he reviewed Tuesday at the Dougherty County Clerk of Court’s office indicate that Williams no longer owes the Internal Revenue Service more than $100,000 because the federal government failed to take the proper action within a seven-year span to collect the debt.
But the state has issued a “nulla bona” as it seeks to collect debt from Williams, meaning that no property lien can be filed because Williams does not own land. Public records show that Williams is not making payments to retire his Department of Revenue debt, which would be required for Williams’ candidacy to be legal, a local Board of Elections official said.
Still, for Williams’ candidacy to be rejected, a Ward 3 resident would have to first file a complaint with the elections board, according to state law.
Williams could not be reached by The Albany Journal for comment. On his application for candidacy for the Ward 3 seat, Williams indicated that he meets all criteria for candidacy.
Article 2 Section 2 paragraph 3 of the State Constitution states: “No person who is not a registered voter; who has been convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude, unless that person’s civil rights have been restored and at least 10 years have elapsed from the date of the completion of the sentence without a subsequent conviction of another felony involving moral turpitude; who is a defaulter for any federal, state, county, municipal, or school system taxes required of such officeholder or candidate if such person has been finally adjudicated by a court of competent jurisdiction to owe those taxes, but such ineligibility may be removed at any time by full payment thereof, or by making payments to the tax authority pursuant to a payment plan …”
Any Ward 3 resident can challenge the eligibility of Williams to run by this Friday, two weeks after qualifying for the Nov. 3 election ended. Georgia Code: 21-2-6 regarding qualifications of candidates for county and municipal office; determination of qualifications states: The (election) superintendent upon his or her own motion may challenge the qualifications of any candidate referred to in subsection (a) of this Code section at any time prior to the election of such candidate. Within two weeks after the deadline for qualifying, any elector who is eligible to vote for any such candidate may challenge the qualifications of the candidate by filing a written complaint with the superintendent giving the reasons why the elector believes the candidate is not qualified to seek and hold the public office for which the candidate is offering. Upon his or her own motion or upon a challenge being filed, the superintendent shall notify the candidate in writing that his or her qualifications are being challenged and the reasons therefore and shall advise the candidate that he or she is setting a hearing on the matter and shall inform the candidate of the date, time, and place of the hearing.
Williams served on the City Commission for 22 years before being defeated four years ago by Gurr in a runoff election. Williams is an Albany native, civil rights activist and Vietnam war veteran who is the namesake of the city’s small business incubator at 230 S. Jackson St.