Suit filed against SPLOST vote

by Winston Jones/Sentinel

James Quarterman has filed a lawsuit in Douglas County Superior Court challenging the legality of the Nov. 3 special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) referendum to build a new jail, claiming voters were “intimidated” into voting “yes” by speeches, writings and phone calls from the sheriff and county commission chairman.

Quarterman’s civil action, filed Thursday, lists the defendants as Laurie Fulton, election supervisor; Rochell Robinson, John Lawrence, Spencer Hardy, Aaron Walker and Slyvanus Burney, members of the Board of Election; Tom Worthan, commission chairman; Phil Miller, sheriff; and Douglas County Board of Commissioners.

The suit requests a jury trial and asks for a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order to prevent the issuance of $120 million in general obligation bonds until a hearing can determine if the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) referendum vote was legal.

A hearing date has not been set.

“We have yet to be served and we have no comment on threatened or pending litigation,” Wes Tallon, county communications and community relations director, said in a written statement released Friday afternoon. “We’ll review the suit, if and when properly served, and will take appropriate action in the courts on behalf of the citizens of Douglas County at the appropriate time.”

Quarterman’s suit alleges, “Under a ‘totality of the circumstances,’ Defendants Miller and Worthan actions disenfranchised voters and changed the election’s outcome by holding public meetings, by publishing newspaper and magazine articles and by denying voters their right to vote freely of their own choice by threatening federal intervention and threatening to raise property taxes if voters did not vote ‘yes’ for the SPLOST. Voters are entitled to a do-over free of intimidation and coercion.”

He also charges that Fulton, in her job as election supervisor, failed to inform voters that because it was a city and county election at the same time, that they had to request and vote on two separate ballots.

Quarterman further claims that Miller and Worthan “manipulated” inmate jail figures and threatened possible action by federal judges “to panic voters to vote ‘yes’ for SPLOST, so as to avoid a threatened property tax increase.”

Quarterman also filed for a change of venue in the case, claiming the sheriff and several other elected county officials, including Superior Court judges, have stock in the bank where bond funds will be deposited. He maintains that, because of this, he will not be “afforded meaningful access and a fair and impartial tribunal.”