COVINGTON -- Two candidates admitted they have been convicted of a crime while another refused to directly address his criminal record at a forum Thursday night.
Each candidate was asked if he or she had ever been convicted of a crime at a forum hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and The Covington News and held at The Center.
Board of Commissioners chairman candidate Marcus Jordan, a Democrat, said he was convicted of a misdemeanor in the 1990s. Records from Rockdale County State Court indicate Jordan was charged with possession of a firearm or knife during the commission of a crime -- a felony -- and possession of marijuana, less than 1 ounce, in November 1992. The felony charge was dropped and Jordan pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor drug possession charge.
John Strauss, Republican candidate for District 1 commissioner, said he was convicted of a DUI in 2002.
"Yes, I did make a mistake 10 years ago. At that time I was separated from the Lord," Strauss said, adding that since then, he has turned his life around, become involved in church and his church's missions program.
"I recognize the mistake I made but that awoke me to a much greater mistake I had made for many years, and that was being separated from our Lord," he said.
However, Tony Flanagan, Democratic candidate for the District 3 seat, never answered the question directly, instead saying that, "I think in the past we've all had discrepancies in our lives that somewhere down the road we try to forget and heal."
In 1991, Flanagan was charged with aggravated assault and carrying a weapon without a license after he shot a man in the arm who came onto his Conyers property with a .25 automatic pistol, according to documents on file in the Rockdale County Superior Court Clerk's Office. The man suffered broken bones. Flanagan, who at the time stated that he was acting in self-defense, was charged with aggravated assault and carrying a pistol without a license.
The charge of carrying a pistol without a license was dropped. Flanagan pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was treated as a first offender and sentenced to three years on probation.
In January 1992, he was charged with obstruction of an officer and escape after he left the Rockdale County Courthouse after being found in contempt of court. According to court documents, a chase ensued and Flanagan bit and kicked a sheriff's deputy. His first offender status was dropped and he was sentenced to serve four years, according to court documents.
Flanagan appealed the charges of escape and obstruction to the Georgia Court of Appeals, which reversed the charge of escape but upheld the charge of obstruction of an officer.
In 2009, Flanagan successfully petitioned the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles for a pardon of all charges in both incidents. His civil and political rights, including the right to run for office, were restored, with the exception of the right to own, carry and sell firearms.
"It's important not to focus on someone's past," said Flanagan, adding that it's better to "focus on the journey they have taken ... to improve themselves."
Flanagan added that while there are discrepancies in his past he is not proud of, he took the necessary steps to be pardoned.
"Please don't judge me from 20 years ago," he said.