Elections board to consider Clayton chairman residency

State elections officials will hear a residency challenge next month against Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeff Turner.

The chief investigator for the Secretary of State’s office will present his findings to the State Elections Board on May 14 at 10 a.m. at the State Capitol. The Secretary of State’s office received a complaint from the Clayton branch of the NAACP questioning Turner’s residency.

Turner said 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 in order to run for office. He moved to his current address, a Riverdale apartment, about a year later. His wife and sons remain in Henry.

“I’ve always been a citizen from the time I claimed to be a citizen (resident) and I still plan to be a citizen,” Turner said Friday. He said he will attend next month’s meeting.

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.

The McDonough address also is where Turner and his wife have claimed a homestead exemption, an indication that the property is their primary residence. By law, a person can claim only one exemption.

State law requires a person running for county commission chairman to have lived continuously in the county for at least a year by the time of the general election. Providing false information on voter registration forms is a felony punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 and up to 10 years in prison.

Residency challenges aren’t rare but they’re usually resolved before the election.

The state elections board can’t remove Turner from office, but it can dismiss the case, issue him a warning or letter of instruction or take other administrative action. It also can turn the matter over to the state Attorney General or the District Attorney.

The May 14 hearing, open to the public, will be in Room 341 of the State Capitol Building, 206 Washington Street SW in Atlanta.