MOULTRIE — Another wrinkle has surfaced in Democratic candidate Leroy Berry Jr.’s campaign for county commission seat District 5.

In comments in his defense to The Moultrie Observer last week regarding a possible garbage tax debt being revived against him, Berry said he moved back to Doerun in early December 2005 after living away for several years. Berry’s wife is a traveling nurse. The couple lived in Atlanta and Columbus, Ohio, but maintained their residence in Doerun, Berry told The Observer last week.

The question is that of residency. The Georgia Code is general in its description of residency, but it does specify that a “candidate for any county office, except offices of a judicial nature, shall be 12 months residency within the county” before the election. Two lawyers spoke with The Observer Monday and they think that question of residency would be one that a jury might have to decipher.

Berry called the matter “picky,” and declined further comment until the Colquitt County Elections Superintendent contacts him.

“I haven’t gotten anything from him so, until I get something from him — hey, I’m not saying anything,” the candidate said.

Elections Superintendent Wes Lewis said, “As elections superintendent, I would prefer not to comment on any one candidate. The qualifying of candidates for partisan office is the responsibility of the respective political parties. These parties have certified to me that their slate of candidates meets the requirements for the office being sought. No one has presented to me a formal challenge to the qualifications of any candidate.”

Until then the matter lies with the voters of District 5.

Last week, county officials said they might pursue collecting $860 from Berry for a past due garbage account that the county board wrote off in 2005. This could be a stumbling block also for the candidate, because the Georgia Constitution states a person is not eligible to hold office if he is “a defaulter for any federal, state, county, municipal, or school system taxes required of such officeholder or candidate if such person has been finally adjudicated by a court of competent jurisdiction to owe those taxes.”

In Colquitt County, the solid waste department imposes property liens when necessary on delinquent accounts.

The solid waste department has no record why the department considered the bill uncollectible, but Berry said his family didn’t live at the residence during the billing period. The county had placed a lien on the candidate’s property in May 2003. That lien is still in effect.





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