“We had nothing to do with that post nor do we support or endorse any political candidate(s),” Muller wrote. “Sadly, we cannot prohibit people from giving our gift cards away and have been totally blindsided by this action.”
On Thursday, the "We Call Milton Home" page posted an apology of sorts, writing that they thought the post offering gift cards was "okay" but removed the post after reading up on Georgia's election laws. It added that the page is not affiliated with any candidate for city council or mayor.
“We are simple people who are passionate about the Milton City Council candidates we endorse and believe will guide Milton in a great direction over the coming years,” the post read.
The city's mayor, Joe Lockwood — who is seeking his fourth term this election — said he "wasn't really aware" of the post, doesn't follow the page and doesn't know who runs it, but said he hasn't seen anything like this before around an election.
“I don’t know that I had a whole lot of reaction to (the post). I didn’t really know anything about it,” he said. “I certainly would not have any part of that.”
Lockwood faces a challenger in the mayor’s race this year from Dr. Laura Rencher, who has lived in the city for a decade and is the co-founder of a non-profit, “Preserve Rural Milton.”
“There’s so many sites out there with so much stuff that sometimes, especially when you’re a candidate, you got to just put your blinders on and not look at it,” Lockwood said. “This is probably the first election in a long time (in Milton) where it’s been contested, so I’m sure there is a lot more energy going around.”
The other candidates mentioned in the post are Peyton Jamison and Laura Bentley. Jamison is running unopposed for the District 1 city council chair, while Bentley is challenging incumbent Bill Lusk for the District 2 post.
Lusk, 74, has been on the council since 2006. He called the post an “unethical tactic.”
“I’m also disappointed that the three candidates who appear to be the beneficiaries of the vote buying plan have kept quiet about this illegal conduct,” Lusk said in a statement. “I think the police should investigate this criminal activity. We have to protect the integrity of our elections.”
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Channel 2's Mike Petchenik obtained 911 calls from the incident.