A Fulton County elections board member who gunned for reforms yet helped put an unqualified colleague in charge of polling operations has resigned.
Citing a busy schedule, William Riley stepped down last month, six months before the end of his term. He was one of two Republican Party appointees to the elections board, which also has two Democratic appointees and a chairman picked by the County Commission.
Fulton Republican Party Chairman Roger Bonds said the resignation had nothing to do with Riley’s role in hiring Sam Westmoreland, his personal friend and former fellow elections board member, as elections director in 2011.
Overseeing a department rife with problems during the past two presidential elections, Riley aggressively scrutinized operations, grilling staffers and regularly butting heads with other board members. But after Westmoreland’s disastrous tenure ended in September, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that Riley had pushed for changes in the hiring process that ensured Westmoreland got the job.
Riley said at the time that he was trying to keep the Registration and Elections Department from morphing into an arm of the Democratic Party, and although Westmoreland was former head of the county Democratic party, Riley said he trusted him to keep politics out of the job.
Westmoreland oversaw a sloppy job of adjusting precinct lines for redistricting, leading to a bungled July primary where hundreds of Sandy Springs and southeast Atlanta voters got assigned to the wrong state Senate and state House races. The AJC found he had falsified portions of his resume and job application, but the elections board never vetted him. He resigned two months later while jailed for failing to follow sentencing terms from two prescription drug-related DUI arrests.
Bonds said that on the whole Riley served as the watchdog the party needed. He said he’s now looking for someone similar to replace him: someone who knows election law, will ask hard questions and has time to serve.
“He was somebody who was trying to move the ball down the field,” Bonds said. “He was our bull in a China shop.”
A former Atlanta Municipal Court chief judge, Riley works as an attorney for several cities including Johns Creek and the new city of Brookhaven. His resignation letter cited his position as chairman of the Roswell Rotary Club’s human trafficking committee, which will require him to travel throughout the state.
Reached by the AJC Wednesday, Riley said he didn’t have time to talk.
“There are no longer enough hours in the day,” his resignation letter said. “It is a difficult decision, but I can no longer allocate the appropriate amount of time and energy necessary to serve the board appropriately.”
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