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Top stories of 2008: Politics bring firsts, controversy

History was made in Newton County on Nov. 4 when voters elected the first black sheriff, Lt. Ezell Brown, and the first female Board of Commissioners chair, Kathy Morgan.

The balance of power was shifted on the board, with Democrats taking a 3 to 2 majority due to the election of Nancy Schulz to the District 3 post. Morgan, also a Democrat, ousted two-term chairman Aaron Varner, while District 1 Commissioner Mort Ewing held onto his seat for a third term. Republican Tim Fleming narrowly won the District 5 seat.

Gresham drops out of school board race

Republican candidate Horace Don Gresham dropped out of the race for the District 2 Board of Education seat after news broke that he had been convicted of sodomy with a child under the age of 14 in DeKalb County in 1988.

Georgia Election law states that at least 10 years must have elapsed from the date of completion of a sentence for conviction of a felony involving moral turpitude and qualification to run for elective office.

According to court documents, Gresham was convicted in May of 1988; his sentence included one year in prison and 11 years on probation, meaning he would not be eligible to seek office until 2010.

Three residents of District 2 challenged Gresham's eligibility, but he withdrew just prior to a hearing before the Newton County Board of Elections.

The case spurred State Sen. John Douglas, R-Social Circle, to announce plans to introduce legislation during this year's General Assembly that would prevent sex offenders from running for local boards of education.

Gresham promised to run for the District 2 Board of Commissioners seat in 2010.

Crotts residency, finances in question again

The residency and financial reporting of Republican candidate Mike Crotts was once again called into question during his bid for State Senate District 17.

A local resident filed a complaint with the State Ethics Commission alleging Crotts failed to file a personal financial disclosure report as required by law.

Crotts waived his right to a preliminary hearing scheduled for early December. A decision is expected this month, according to a source with the Ethics Commission.

Crotts was fined $40,000 by the Federal Election Commission in 2004 for failing to disclose a personal contribution to his campaign for Congress. A search of the State Ethics Commission Web site shows that Crotts has been late in filing campaign and financial disclosure reports at least eight times since 2003.

Crotts' residency was also called into question during this campaign, two years after he was disqualified from running for the same seat after a judge ruled his primary residence was in Henry County, about 1 mile outside the district.

When Crotts announced his candidacy earlier this year, he claimed to have purchased a house in Newton County and to be living there full-time.

However, Newton and Henry county tax records showed that Crotts has an active homestead exemption in both counties, which is illegal.

Meanwhile, utility bills showed minimum water usage at the Newton home and much greater usage at the Henry County home, and Crotts' Newton neighbors said he only appeared to do yard work and retrieve mail.

Crotts was defeated by incumbent John Douglas in the primary. Douglas went on to reclaim his seat in November.