CONYERS — Olivia Holmes Ware, whose candidacy for mayor of Conyers has been questioned by elections officials due to discrepancies in her proper address and voter registration, filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the city of Conyers.
Ware, who is representing herself in the lawsuit, claims that the city attorneys, Michael Waldrop and Carrie Bootcheck, as representatives of the city of Conyers, failed to properly notify her of a hearing on Sept. 20.
Ware states in the lawsuit that the city of Conyers “didn’t follow the General Municipal Election law fail to serve Candidate Notice to attend the Voter Registration Eligibility Hearing to Run for the Office of Mayor of the City of Conyers (sic).”
Ware claims that the city of Conyers failed to notify her of the hearing by regular or certified U.S. mail or by hand delivery.
As a result, Ware has requested a jury trial and to be compensated for attorney’s fees, as well as compensatory damages for emotional distress and punitive damages for fraud claims.
“Because of the malicious and wrongful actions alleged above Defendant is liable to Plaintiff A fair hearing (sic),” the lawsuit states.
City Clerk and Election Superintendent Patricia Smith, who presided over the hearing, issued her order Wednesday afternoon in which she found Ware is not legally qualified to run for mayor in the Nov. 5 election. Ware has 10 days to appeal that decision to the Rockdale County Superior Court.
While Friday’s hearing was not held to determine Ware’s voter registration eligibility but instead to determine whether she is eligible to seek elective office in the city of Conyers, her voter registration status was brought into question.
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.
On Sept. 9, City Attorney Waldrop sent a certified letter to Ware at all three addresses notifying her that her candidacy was in question and asked her to withdraw by Sept. 12
On Tuesday, Sept. 17, after Ware did not withdraw her candidacy, City Clerk Smith sent to Ware — at all three addresses — a certified letter notifying her that Smith would hold a hearing at 10 a.m. Sept. 20 to determine whether she is legally qualified to run for the office of mayor in the Nov. 5 election.
Neither Ware nor any representative for Ware appeared at Friday’s hearing.
During the hearing, Assistant City Attorney Carrie Bootcheck testified to her attempts to contact Ware via certified and regular U.S. mail and a detailed voicemail message left for her earlier in the week.
Conyers Police Department Capt. Jackie Dunn also testified about his unsuccessful attempt to hand-deliver the notice of the hearing at her place of business on Gees Mill Road.
Also during the 75-minute hearing, Waldrop presented evidence and questioned witnesses who testified about the legitimacy of Ware’s qualification to run in a city election.
Rockdale County Elections Supervisor Cynthia Welch testified the issue came to light when she was comparing the qualification forms of the six municipal candidates.
“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.”
Ware had registered to vote in Rockdale County on Aug. 16, when she applied for a new drivers license. She had previously lived and been registered to vote in Newton County since 2007.
Newton County Elections Supervisor Donna Morrison testified that Ware 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.
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.
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.