DeKalb tax commissioner sues to stop election

DeKalb County Tax Commissioner Irvin Johnson has filed a lawsuit seeking to delay Tuesday’s special election for the tax office position.

Johnson’s lawsuit alleges that he should be labeled on the ballot as the incumbent in the three-person race. Johnson has been serving as the county’s tax commissioner since his predecessor, Claudia Lawson, retired at the end of last year. Johnson was Lawson’s chief deputy.

Johnson’s name currently appears on the ballot without the word “incumbent” beneath it.

Johnson faces attorney Susannah Scott and former DeKalb Commissioner Stan Watson in the Democratic Party race for tax commissioner, the county’s highest-paying position with $242,000 in total annual compensation.

Johnson isn’t considered an incumbent based on a law passed in 2008, according to a February memo from the county’s Law Department. The law states that an interim tax commissioner “shall not be designated as the incumbent on the election ballot used to fill such vacancy.”

Johnson’s lawsuit, filed Wednesday in DeKalb Superior Court, argues that the 2008 law is unconstitutional.

Neither Johnson nor his attorney immediately returned calls seeking comment Friday.

The special election is being held to fill the last seven months of the current four-year term. The tax commissioner’s race also appears a second time on Democratic ballots for the primary election to fill the next four-year term that starts January 1.

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