Election board: Clayton chairman lives in Clayton

The five-member State Election Board on Tuesday unanimously dismissed the residency challenge brought by the Clayton branch of the NAACP against Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeff Turner.

The board made its decision after the lead investigator for the Secretary of State’s Office said he found no evidence that Turner had violated residency requirements when running for office. The action, which took all of five minutes, ended five months of debate over whether Turner actually lived in Clayton or in Henry, where his wife and children live.

“I’m happy it’s over. I’m very satisfied with the decision. I’ve been vindicated,” Turner, who attended Tuesday’s hearing, said after the decision was made. “I hope this satisfies (NAACP president) Synamon Baldwin and the NAACP.”

Baldwin did not attend Tuesday’s hearing. Turner said he was interviewed for several hours recently by state investigators about documents cited in the complaint.

"We thank the Secretary of State Board of Election for conducting the investigation of the chairman's residency," Baldwin said Tuesday. "Although we disagree with the findings of the investigation because of the apparent irregularities in the filings of the chairman, we respect their decision. Citizens of Clayton County can be assured that the NAACP will continue to be a leader on holding elected officials accountable to the voters they represent."

Lead investigator Chris Harvey said during Tuesday’s hearing that there appeared to be “confusion” over Turner’s divorce and bankruptcy documents. Public records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found conflicting information about Turner’s primary residence during the past three years. Bankruptcy and divorce documents filed 10 months after Turner said he had established residency in Clayton list Turner as a resident of McDonough, in neighboring Henry County, around the time he made his bid for the $144,212-a-year Clayton chairman’s job.

Turner has maintained he has lived full-time in Clayton since December 2010 when he moved from Henry County, to a house in Morrow owned by his father, to run for office. He moved to his current address, a Riverdale apartment, about a year later. His wife and sons remain in Henry.

On Tuesday, Harvey and the State Election Board agreed with Turner.

“I don’t find any evidence that he put false information” in his candidacy filings, Harvey said during the hearing.

Turner has said he listed the Henry address where his family lives to have a central place for his mail to be delivered. Turner expressed concern Tuesday that neither Baldwin nor other NAACP officials expressed their concerns to him about his residency status.

“Nobody spoke to me” to get clarification of the documents, he said.