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Recall effort targets commission chairman

A reported recall effort may be underway in an attempt to oust McDuffie County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton, The McDuffie Mirror has learned.

Rumblings about such a possible attempt have reached the local elections office, spurring the director to ask for money for a possible recall election.

Mr. Newton, who is into his third, four-year term as commission chairman, contends that he has done nothing wrong and wants to continue serving the people of McDuffie County.

"I don't know whose doing this and I'm not putting a lot of time in poking around in the shadows to find out too much, personally," Mr. Newton told The Mirror. "Unless there's something I've done and I don't know about it, whatever they're doing is completely unfounded."

Mr. Newton said he first heard that a recall effort might be underway against him following a conversation he had several weeks ago with McDuffie County Manager Don Norton. It followed a request to Mr. Norton from McDuffie County Elections Director Phyllis Wheeler about the possible need for $20,000 for two elections that would be needed if a recall election was deemed necessary. Ms. Wheeler said two elections may be necessary because the first one would seek to recall Mr. Newton and the second would fill his seat if the first is successful.

The funding for those elections would come from the county's contingency fund, Mr. Norton said.

Ms. Wheeler recently confirmed that "three people" had inquired with her office about the process of recalling an elected official. At least one of them indicated that official was Mr. Newton.

Attempts by the newspaper to contact persons who might be linked to the recall effort have been unsuccessful.

On the county commission, only two of the four commissioners - Fred Favors and Paul McCorkle - said they have heard the rumblings about a recall. Two other commissioners, Sammie Wilson, Sr., who serves as vice-chairman, and Bill Jopling said they had not heard anything about a possible recall effort involving Mr. Newton.

"I hate to see us waste that kind of money," Mr. Newton said. "All of this is an un-needed distraction. I just wish that my accusers, whoever they are, would come out and accuse me face-to-face. This is nothing but a cowardly action up to this point. And I will not let it affect the work I do for the citizens of McDuffie County."

Under Georgia law, an elected official in the state can only be recalled on the following grounds:

- An act of malfeasance or misconduct while in office;

- Violation of oath of office;

- Failure to perform duties as prescribed by law and;

- Willfully misusing, converting or misappropriating, without authority, public property or public funds entrusted to or associated with the elective office to which the official has been elected or appointed.

Ms. Wheeler said a petition drive is the first step involved in a recall effort. At least 100 names would have to be gathered from a list of those registered to vote in McDuffie County. An appointed spokesperson would then lead those 100 people in an attempt to secure the names of at least 30 percent - or 3,845 - of the voters in McDuffie County. If that many names were gathered and confirmed to be registered voters, then a special recall election could be called.

Web posted on Thursday, July 02, 2009

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