0

Conyers holds hearing on eligibility of mayoral candidate Ware — who does not appear

Olivia Ware fails to appear

Conyers City Attorney Mike Waldrop, right, presents documents to Conyers Elections Superintendent Patricia Smith during a hearing Friday morning to determine with mayoral candidate Olivia Ware is eligible to run.

Conyers City Attorney Mike Waldrop, right, presents documents to Conyers Elections Superintendent Patricia Smith during a hearing Friday morning to determine with mayoral candidate Olivia Ware is eligible to run.

CONYERS — Olivia Holmes Ware did not appear for the hearing held Friday morning to determine whether she is eligible to run for election for Conyers mayor.

The hearing was held in Council Chambers at Conyers City Hall and presided over by City Clerk and Election Superintendent Patricia Smith. City Attorney Mike Waldrop presented evidence and questioned witnesses who testified about the legitimacy of Ware’s qualification to run in a city election.

After about 75 minutes of testimony, Waldrop completed presenting his case arguing that Ware was ineligible to run for Conyers mayor since she is not legally registered to vote in the city and apparently had not resided in either the city limits or Rockdale County for the amount of time she swore to on her Notice of Candidacy and Affidavit.

“I’d like to note for the record that we have been here for almost an hour and a half and at no point did Ms. Ware or any representative for her appear for the proceedings,” Waldrop said.

The hearing was scheduled as a result of discrepancies between Ware’s Notice of Candidacy, her voter registration records and her voting history.

Ware qualified on Aug. 30 as a candidate for mayor, using as her address 213 Peaks Landing in Conyers. She stated in the Notice of Candidacy and Affidavit that she has been a legal resident of Rockdale County for two consecutive years and a legal resident of the city of Conyers for one year.

However, based on voter registration records and voting history, Ware listed residing at addresses in both unincorporated Rockdale County and in Newton County within the last year.

Rockdale County Elections Supervisor Cynthia Welch testified the issue came to light when she was comparing the qualification forms of the six municipal candidates — four mayoral candidates and two city council candidates — with their voter registrations to ensure they lived and were registered to vote in Conyers.

“Mrs. Ware’s address on the voter registration form did not match the address on her Notice of Candidacy,” Welch said. “The address on her voter registration file was on Coal Shovel Trail, which is not in the city of Conyers.”

The address she gave on her Notice of Candidacy, however, was a home on Peaks Landing, which is in the city limits, Welch testified.

Rockdale County’s Elections Office received Ware’s voter registration application via the state Department of Driver’s Services on Aug. 19 as a result of Ware applying for a new drivers license on Aug. 16.

According to testimony from from Laverne Walker, custodian of records for DDS, Ware applied for a drivers license with the Coal Shovel Trail address on Aug. 16. At that time, Ware presented a drivers license, a bank statement showing her address and a divorce decree for purposes of changing her name from Olivia Ware Holmes to her maiden name, Olivia Ware.

Then, on Aug. 30 — the same day she qualified for mayor — Ware returned to the DDS office in Conyers to apply for a new drivers license with a change of address to the Peaks Landing residence.

Walker testified that Ware did not need to present any information proving she resided at the Peaks Landing address since she had shown identifying documentation just two weeks earlier. However, Ware did bring in a screenshot of a page on a bank’s website that reflected the Peaks Landing location, Walker said.

Waldrop also provided evidence that Ware — using the name Olivia Holmes — has lived on Mt. Zion Road in Oxford, which is in Newton County, for several years. He presented evidence that she claimed homestead exemption in Newton County in 2012 and, through the divorce decree signed by Judge Samuel Ozburn and filed on April 30, was granted possession of the Mt. Zion home.

Newton County Elections Supervisor Donna Morrison testified that Ware had registered to vote in Newton County in 2007 and had voted four times since 2008, including the General Election in November 2012.

Morrison said she was removed from Newton County’s voter registration list in June of this year when her office received notice from the state that she had a felony conviction.

Ware is participating in a pre-trial diversion program as a result of charges filed in January by the Conyers Police Department for theft by receiving and obstruction of officers. The name Olivia Holmes and the Coal Shovel Trail address are listed on the incident report and warrants.

Ware had been notified by certified mail that her candidacy was in question. However, multiple attempts to contact Ware about the hearing date — including voicemail messages, a mailing by certified mail and an attempt by Conyers Police Department Capt. Jackie Dunn to hand-deliver the notice at her place of business on Gees Mill Road — were unsuccessful.

According to state law concerning qualifications of candidates, Ware has 10 days to appeal the decision by Smith.

Rockdale Elections Superintendent Welch said that ballots were approved last week in order for them to be ready in time for early voting and to be mailed for absentee voters on Oct. 14. Should Ware be disqualified from the election, Welch said signs will be placed at the voting places and notes sent with absentee ballots advising voters that Ware is an ineligible candidate.