Judge David Smith ruled today there is enough evidence to proceed to a hearing to determine if appointed member Anna Sullivan can retain her seat.
Smith also denied a motion dismissing the case based on the fact that plaintiffs Jerry Nalley and Bartow Tea Party Director Gail Engelhardt do not live in Sullivan’s district.
“Any citizen in the county of Bartow has the right to bring an action against a public official,” the judge said.
by the Board of Education in February after to run the .
That appointment was illegal, and the seat should have been filled either through a special election or waiting until a primary or general election, said Nalley and Engelhardt, who .
Sullivan and former board member Greg Bowen have to seek the District 5 seat in both the and Republican primary, both set for July 31.
Nalley said he expected a similar ruling.
“We felt it was absolutely necessary to enforce the rule of law,” he said. “As long as we have the rule of law, citizens don’t have to fear corruption of any kind.”
The Rydal resident said Sullivan now has time to review the law, realize she was appointed in error and resign.
“That pretty much makes our point moot,” he said. “But, I don’t think that’s going to happen, sadly.”
Sullivan’s attorney, Todd Hatcher of the Atlanta law firm Brock Clay, declined to comment on the case after Wednesday morning’s hearing.
“I can’t comment on pending litigation,” Hatcher said. “If I could, I would, but unfortunately, I can’t.”
Sullivan was not present at the hearing, to which Nalley objected.
“It is her place and no one else’s to speak to her authority to hold office,” he said.
Smith said that while he will determine if Sullivan can continue serving on the school board, he would not address the following concerns:
- State law allowing board appointments be declared unconstitutional;
- Bartow school board policy "upon which Sullivan has relied" be declared unconstitutional;
- The court find the only lawful process to fill a board vacancy is a special election;
- All monies paid to Sullivan be ordered returned; and
- Sullivan be disqualified as a District 5 candidate in the July 31 primary "for illegally holding said office."
School board attorney Boyd Pettit, who has said in the past the board was within its rights to appoint Sullivan to the vacant seat, said after Wednesday’s hearing that he could not comment.
“There’s now a pending matter,” he said. “I’m not going to comment further.”
A date for the next hearing has not been set to allow Nalley time to file his petition. The case of quo warranto, which is a legal proceeding during which a person’s right to hold an office is challenged, is unusual, Smith said.
“This is something that lawyers and judges don’t come across very often,” Smith said. “It’s extremely important, and we’re going to take all the time we need.”