Election Board hears case against Fayette GOP Chairman Lane Watts

County attorney Scott Bennett (L) served as moderator Aug. 13 for a hearing conducted by the Fayette County Board of Elections on the challenge that Fayette County Republican Party Chairman Lane Watts did not reside at the address listed on his voter registration form during portions of 2011 and 2012. Board members Addison Lester (center) and Darryl Hicks after the hearing said they would render a decision on the issue in 5-10 days. Photo/Ben Nelms.

A hearing challenging Lane Watts’ standing as chairman of the Fayette County Republican Party was held Aug. 13 before the Fayette County Board of Elections.

Two of the three-person board heard from three witnesses whose testimony indicated that Watts did not reside at the Peachtree City residence during portions of 2011 and 2012 even though the address was listed as his residence on his voter registration paperwork.

The board will render a decision in 5-10 days.

The evidentiary hearing conducted Monday night before Fayette County Board of Elections members Darryl Hicks and Addison Lester dealt with the matter of Watts’ residence at 109 Gelding Garth Lane in Peachtree City from September 2011 through March 2012.

Attorney Richard Hobbs maintained that Watts did not reside at the Gelding Garth Lane address even though Watts’ voter registration paperwork indicated that he did. If Hobbs is correct, Watts could be in violation of Georgia voter registration laws.

From his perspective, Watts’ attorney John Sparks summed up the ongoing controversy as one that has some in the local Republican Party insisting that Watts is not qualified to serve as chairman of the organization.

“It boils down to the internal spat of a private club trying to remove their chairman. And I think that’s not the job of this board,” Sparks said. “If Mr. Hobbs has evidence (of wrongdoing) he should go to the (district attorney). He is trying to get you to do what he’s unwilling to do.”

Hobbs in response said he had attempted to work with Watts, but that Watts had gone behind that backs of those concerned about his residency and took the matter to the Board of Elections in May. The Aug. 13 hearing followed one in May where the board did not find any wrongdoing pertaining to Watts’ residency paperwork.

“I believe the evidence will show that (Watts) did not live at the (Gelding Garth Lane) address on his voter registration card,” Hobbs said.

Testimony at the hearing came from three witnesses. Two of them had resided at the Gelding Garth Lane address during the time that Watts indicated that he lived there. The third witness was a next-door neighbor. Three others were subpoenaed but did not attend the hearing. Those included Lane Watts, Board of Elections member Marilyn Watts — the mother of Lane Watts — and Peggy Perkins.

The first witness was Brad Parsons, who said he lived at the residence during the time in question. Parsons said Watts did not live at the residence nor had he seen Watts at the residence. Parson said he had two roommates during that time, though he could not remember the last name of one of the roommates.

Another witness, Patricia Clements, said she lived next door to the Gelding Garth Lane residence during the September-March time frame. Clements said one of the residents next door at 109 Gelding Garth Lane was her boyfriend and that she spent a great deal of time at his residence. Clements said she had seen Watts only recently, though mail addressed to him would sometimes arrive at the 109 Gelding Garth Lane address.

The third witness was Christian Alfaro, who said he had met Watts once but that Watts had not lived at the residence during the time in question.

After the witnesses’ statements and in relation to the idea that Watts might have committed a crime relating to his voter registration paperwork, Sparks said, “If there is a crime committed, anyone can step over to the district attorney’s office. I can speculate that (Hobbs) has no credible evidence at all.”

The hearing was moderated by County Attorney Scott Bennett.

Hicks and Lester at the conclusion of the hearing said their decision on the matter would be released in 5-10 days.

Prior to hearing from the witnesses there was a discussion on an Aug. 7 emergency motion filed by Watts that essentially questioned whether Elections Supervisor Tom Sawyer had the authority to issue subpoenas on behalf of the elections board and whether the board had the authority to conduct the hearing.

Sparks insisted that the board did not have the authority to conduct the hearing, adding that, “In essence this is an internal squabble in the Fayette County Republican Party,” one that was attempting to use the elections board, “to do what they couldn’t do within the party.”

Suggesting that board members take under advisement the idea that they did not have the authority to conduct the hearing, Bennett nonetheless advised that they proceed with the hearing.

The Monday hearing was only the latest evidence of the conflict inside the Fayette County Republican Party that has been stirring for months. An attempt at a recent party meeting to overturn Watts’ position as chairman was unsuccessful.

Watts’ term ends early next year, and a new vote will be conducted.

americanpatriots
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Lane Watts to be referred to the DA

On August 24, 2012, the Board of Elections determined that Lane Watts, Chairman of the FCGOP, had provided false information in a voter registration affidavit to the Board of Elections and in an affidavit to the Superior Court of Fayette County. And, based on the evidence presented at the hearing on August 13, 2012, they had an ethical obligation to report the matter to the District Attorney for the Griffin Judicial Circuit for further consideration.

Jim Richter

kikenbutt
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Lane and Marilyn

Watts are something else. I left that chapter many years ago and will never come back until they both are gone. I personally was in their destruction path just for asking questions. The mommy and son pair never followed the bylaws until it benefited them. Lane was also accused of mismanagement of funds as Chairman of the 3rd District and ended up resigning after realizing they were serious in removing him. There had also been other troubles in the Young Republican Club that he chaired. Marilyn, the mommy, is alot worse. Unfortunately, this alleged felony going to this DA, Scott Ballard, a Watt’s loyalist, nothing will change. The Watts will hang in there, no matter what, even when it will mean; continual unrest within the party, much disorganization, control, and no trust which leads good working, intelligent republicans to give up and leave this local chapter. This during a time of much needed help for Romney and Ryan to win the White House. Sad that Mr. Watts won’t just resign for the good of the party.

Do the right thing!

Robert W. Morgan
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Uh, oh Herr Richter, what we gonna do?

An ethical obligation to report? Sure, no politics or personal prejudice involved there. I mean sure, Lane is a lightweight and needs to go, but ethics? No, just dump him for immaturity and ineffectiveness.

BTW, congrats for helping your brown buddy to get his highest paying job ever - $29k for Faytette County Commissioner head chairperson. I made $29k when I was still in college - part time job and a long time ago. And I actually helped people back then - didn't diss on them.

We need to pick our leaders a bit more carefully.

citizenal
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Unity doesn't trump Integrity

The issue over Mr. Watts is essential to our unity. His lack of integrity hurts us all and must be dealt with quickly. This is not a side issue that can be postponed.

If he cared about the party and the principles we hold dear he would step aside and help facilitate a transition to a strong replacement.

MajorMike
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citizenal

Like mommy - like son. You really need to get into the history of the local party to understand that Lane Watts is going to hang on to that office come hell or high water. The game plan is the same as it was twenty five years ago - exclude everyone but those "Inner circle" loyalists and run it like a freight train until it finally jumps the tracks.

The problem with that philosophy is that there eventually comes a day of reckoning.

The big question here though is: was he elected fairly and squarely or was he not? Anything else is a power struggle.

citizenal
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Unity doesn't trump Integrity

The issue over Mr. Watts is essential to our unity. His lack of integrity hurts us all and must be dealt with quickly. This is not a side issue that can be postponed.

If he cared about the party and the principles we hold dear he would step aside and help facilitate a transition to a strong replacement.

lovingfayette
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internal GOP fighting

The local Republican Party needs to stop fighting among themselves and get focused on November.