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Group threatens lawsuit over T-SPLOST ballot language

7:39 PM, Jul 3, 2012   |    comments
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  • Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp
  • Jack Staver, Chairman of the Transportation Leadership Coalition
  • Preamble wording on T-SPLOST ballot
    

ATLANTA -- Some critics of the July 31st transportation sales tax referendum have moved a step closer to challenging the wording of the ballot in court.

The question is, could that challenge end up postponing or voiding the results?

The issue is a preamble to the "yes" or "no" question that will appear on the ballot.

It reads, "Provides for local transportation projects to create jobs and reduce traffic congestion with citizen oversight."

An anti-tax group called the Transportation Leadership Coalition calls that description biased and says it was not in the law that authorized the vote.

"It's saying it's going to create jobs and it's going to relieve traffic congestion," said Jack Staver, Chairman of the coalition.

"There's no fact behind this and there's no legal authority for them to put this in there," he told 11Alive News on Tuesday.

The group has now hired Atlanta attorney Pitts Carr to represent them.

Carr has written a letter to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and State Attorney General Sam Olens asking where the wording came from and who authorized it.

Kemp previously admitted approving the ballot.

He said his department came up with the wording after consulting with several local officials who helped pick the transportation projects that would benefit from the sales tax.

Carr's letter asks:

1) Who drafted the introductory language?
2) Under what authority is it claimed that that language may be placed on the ballot?
3) Were private concerns involved in the preparation and submission of this language?
4) The identity of such private entities.

In a second letter, attorney Carr asks Secretary of State Kemp to provide e-mails, documents and any correspondence between him and others about the language and any legal authority behind it.

Secretary of State Kemp declined 11Alive's request for a television interview.

He sent us this e-mail response instead:

"We are in receipt of the letter from Mr. Carr. Should Mr. Carr and his clients move forward with legal action, we look forward to defending our position in court," it reads.

When told of Kemp's response, attorney Carr said, "This sounds to me like 'tell the taxpayers to go to hell; we'll do what we want to do'."

Carr said if the coalition he represents does go ahead with a lawsuit, it could mean, "the entire process was tainted and the results would be thrown out, just like in a case of ballot tampering."

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