Is Butch Mosely allowed to hold public office in two counties?

By | May 2, 2014
Dr. David C. "Butch" Mosely

Dr. David C. “Butch” Mosely

Sowegalive.com talked to David C. “Butch” Mosely on Friday, May 2, 2014. In April 2014, Dr. Mosely was selected as the permanent superintendent of schools in Albany-Dougherty County , having served as interim superintendent since January 2013. Mosely is also serving as a county commissioner in Decatur County, first elected in 2004 and last re-elected in 2012.

There has been some privately-voiced questions about whether it was legal or ethical for Mosely to hold public offices (one elected, one appointed) in two different counties, and additionally, whether there were any residency requirements that might disqualify him from one of the offices.

We interviewed Mr. Mosely on Friday morning and asked him whether he believes he meets the requirements for holding both offices. You can listen to the 6 minute, 33-second telephone interview, which was recorded with permission, by pressing play below.

 

First, some background. Earlier this week, we sent an open records request to the Dougherty County Board of Education, requesting

  1. a copy of Mosely’s current contract (a new one currently being drafted to reflect his permanent status will take effect in June
  2. a copy of Mosely’s application for the permanent position, which the Dougherty Board of Education began advertising for in Fall 2013
  3. Finally, we asked for any documents pertaining to any residency requirements to hold the position of school superintendent.

 

R.D. Harter, the director of public information for Dougherty County Schools, replied promptly to our request. According to Harter, there is no residency requirement for Mosely. Here was Mr. Harter’s response, which clarifies some points of the questions we asked:

This response to your email, below, supplies the following requested information:
1) The superintendent’s current contract is attached. A new contract is being negotiated and will be executed by June 1. Please let me know if you’d like a copy.
2) The system has no application for Dr. Mosely as he was initially hired from a list of potential candidates from the State Department of Education after an open interim selection process. He followed that selection with a letter to the board in January of this year stating his position about consideration for a permanent placement (See LtrBrd100714, attached). The board considers this letter as an application.
3) There is no residency requirement in Dougherty County for school superintendent. Dr. Mosely does have an apartment in Albany and spends the time necessary to perform his job.

Next we looked at what Georgia law had to say about requirements to hold various public offices in Georgia, using a document published by the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office titled “Qualifications & Disqualifications for holding State or County Elective Office in Georgia.” (See the section on County Commissioners).

In summary, the law says county commissioners must:

  • Be at least 21 years of age (except where local ordinance sets the age between 18-21
  • Be a registered voter and entitled to vote in the county of their residency
  • Must have been a resident of the county in which seeking the office for at least 12 months prior to election or appointment.

In addition, the Secretary of State’s guide had the following pertinent annotations based on court cases:

  • the Georgia Attorney General has stated that “A candidate for office of county commissioner must be a resident for a period of months prior to his or her election but does not have to reside in the commission district from which he or she seeks election for that period.”
  • The residency requirement refers to domicile. There must be either the tacit or explicit intention to change one’s domicile before one can change his legal residence. If a person leaves the place of his domicile temporarily, or for a particular purpose, and does not take up an actual residence elsewhere with the avowed intention of making a change in his domicile, he will not be considered as having changed his domicile.

Note: Dictionary.com defines “domicile” as “a permanent legal residence.”

The second annotation is important because Mosely still maintains a residence in Climax along with his wife June. He said he stays at his house in Climax on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, as well as the night before or after a county commission meeting, depending on whether it is held in the morning or evening. Mosely said he regularly attends church in Climax and holds a church board position.

On weeknights, Mosely said he stays at an apartment in Albany for the purposes of commuting to his job at the Board of Education. He said he and his wife occasionally stay in Albany when they attend social gatherings there. The Dougherty Board of Education provides Mosely with a monthly allowance for rent, travel and utility bills associated with his apartment, per the terms of his interim contract.

We asked Mosely whether he still had time to devote to his Decatur County constituents. He said he remains accessible by giving out his cell phone number and his email address, which he says near the end of our interview.

Finally, we asked Mosely how his residency arrangement was different from those of previous county commissioners whose residency had been challenged, either by citizens or other commissioners. Mosely said his situation could be construed as similar, except that he spends three nights a week on average in Decatur County, while “[he] was told” that the other commissioners in question, who are no longer on the board, rarely or never stayed at the residence they had on file with the Board of Elections office.

Decatur County Board of Elections Superintendent Doris White said that when potential candidates come in to her office to qualify for local office, she inputs the residential address they provide (which is supposed to be the same as the address listed on their voter registration card) into a computer application that locates the address and lists which city or county district they would be qualified to run for office in. White noted that it is not possible to be registered to vote in two different counties, or two different states, and it is not possible to claim homestead tax exemption on property in one county and run for office in another.

The residency requirements for City Council members and Decatur County Board of Education members are different from those of county commissioner–candidates must reside in the district they plan to run in and must give up their seat if they move out of district during their term in office. We also understand that it is an unwritten policy of the Decatur County Board of Education for persons in key leadership positions to reside within Decatur County during their employment.

As a longtime educator who has been school superintendent in multiple counties, including Decatur, Mosely draws $154,000 per year from Georgia teachers’ retirement.  Under the terms of his interim contract, receives an additional $7,145 per month plus an allowance from the Dougherty Board of Education.



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