Disqualified city candidates lose court battle in Gadsden

Disqualified city candidates lose court battle in Gadsden
Gadsden disqualifies candidate (Source: WBRC)

GADSDEN, AL (WBRC) - A judge has denied an injunction that would have put three candidates back on the ballot for Gadsden's August 28th city elections.

Mayoral candidate Michael Shell and Council candidates Kathy Hood and Warren Dates were disqualified for failing to file a statement of economic interest when they qualified to run in this year's elections. Their attorneys went before Etowah County Circuit Judge William Rhea to seek an injunction to put them back on the ballot.

An attorney for Hood and Dates said in court the two were told they had five days to file the form, but an attorney representing the ethics commission says it was due the day they filed. She argued their packets, given to them at city hall, included the form and the instructions on when the form was due.

Michael Shell's attorney argued he filed the form by sending it registered mail "within a 24 hour period" from when he qualified at city hall, due to his job as a truck driver. The ethics attorney said it could have been filed online and a computer at city hall was available for that purpose.

Despite Rhea denied the injunction based on a 2016 law requiring all candidates for all offices file the form the same day they qualify. Dates's and Hood's attorney, Gerald Maxwell, had argued a 1990s case in which the state Supreme Court had ruled, said they didn't have to file. However, Ethics Commission attorney Cynthia Raulston said the 2016 law, passed by the legislature, superseded that ruling.

"We feel that even in the court's ruling today, they got it wrong, based on the statute that's been presented to us, in terms of why we even filed an injunctive relief today," said Warren Dates after the hearing. Dates vowed to appeal and pending a ruling by the state court of civil appeals, continue running and even said he would keep his campaign signs up, urging Hood to do the same.

"It's good," Hood told WBRC immediately after the ruling. Hood says she accepts the judge's ruling.

Michael Shell argued the law has changed in the four years since the last time he ran for mayor in 2014, before the new law cited in court.

"We did these documents just like this, and Miss (Iva) Nelson (the city clerk in Gadsden) kept all of this and mailed them in one package to Montgomery," says Shell.

Shell vows to run for mayor again in the next election in 2022.

Current mayor Sherman Guyton and six of the seven incumbents are running for re-election. District Four council member Robert Echols is retiring from the council after 32 years. He was the last remaining original member since Gadsden adopted the council form of government and elected its first council in 1986.

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