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Atlantic Beach candidates file high court appeal

The two write-in candidates declared winners in Atlantic Beach's municipal election last year before the results were overturned have appealed a circuit courtjudge's order upholding that decision.

Former Town Manager Carolyn Cole and the Rev. Windy Price ran as write-in candidates in the November 2009 election for two Town Council seats and won enough votes to take the seats. However, previous council members and other candidates questioned the two candidates' residencies. Cole and Price used suspended Mayor Retha Pierce's address as their residence to run for the council.

Last November's election results were overturned by the town's election commission because of questions about the residency of Cole and Price, and issues concerning voting irregularities and absentee ballots.

Circuit Court Judge Benjamin Culbertson "affirmed" the election commission's decision in June.

Cole and Price filed an appeal to Culbertson's order on Oct. 28 with the S.C. Supreme Court. Earlier this week, they also filed a motion asking the Supreme Court to expedite the appeal, said Charles Jordan, Cole and Price's attorney.

"We hope the appellate court will overturn thedecision of the Atlantic Beach election commission and order for Carolyn Cole and Windy Price to be seated as Town Council members," Jordan said Friday. "We're waiting to see what will happen." Jordan said they are hoping a decision will be made before this time next year.

Jordan said that Cole and Price contend they are residents of Atlantic Beach; think it is a conflict of interest for Town Manager William Booker's wife, Lynda Booker, to be on the election commission because the town manager is a political appointee hired by the Town Council; and don't think there were sufficient problems to make a difference in the election regarding absentee ballots.

Jordan also said the voting "irregularities aren't sufficient to throw out an election."

"Every election is going to have problems. You don't want to get in a situation where you throw out an election because of minor problems."

Price received 64 votes, Cole received 52 votes, incumbents Charlene Taylor and Josephine Isom received 43 and 35 votes, respectively. Paul Curry, the other challenger on the ballot, received five votes.

Price and Cole were declared winners after the election commission voted to accept 28 of the 39 challenged ballots in the election. Taylor and Isom then protested the results and after two lengthy hearings the election commission voted to overturn the election results.

John Zilinsky, attorney for the Atlantic Beach Election Commission, said Friday that he has not reviewed the recent notice of appeal, and so did not have a comment.

John Leiter, attorney for Isom and Taylor, said Friday that "Cole and Price certainly have the right to appeal" and that his clients "are confident in the decision of the election board and Judge Culbertson in this case."

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