Bartow County Election Supervisor Joseph Kirk said he was in Kingston Friday, Aug. 30, the last day of qualifying in the county. However, Kirk said he was there to act as a notary public and not an election official.
“I was out there acting as a notary, because they needed a notary in the office — the normal notary had to step out — and I volunteered to fill in. That’s all it was,” Kirk said.
City Clerk Michelle Jones said she had previously made plans to be absent that Friday to take care of personal business. She knew some candidates needed to qualify that day, and so she contacted Kirk to act as the notary while Kingston Treasurer Dawn Clark handled the paperwork.
“When I couldn’t think of anybody who could notarize Miss Louise [Howell]’s forms, he said for me to just make sure they were there at 4 o’clock and that he would do the notarizing, and that’s what I did. I set it up for them to be there at 4 o’clock and that’s the way it went down,” Jones said.
The email sent to the DTN also mentioned rumors concerning Clark qualifying individuals and a candidate being qualified after the 4:30 p.m. deadline on Aug. 30.
Kirk said it was possible for Clark to handle the paperwork so long as Jones delegated the task to her. He said such delegation could occur in his office as well if he ever stepped out and he had to leave another election official in charge. Kirk added he was at Kingston City Hall until 4:30 p.m. that day.
“I was out there at 4 o’clock and hung out until 4:30. ... While I was out there I sort of looked over everything to make sure that nothing jumped out at me, and nothing did. It was simply a matter of needing a notary,” he said.
Two candidates qualified on Aug. 30. Louise Howell qualified for Post 1 on the city council, a seat she now holds, and Vivian Shaw qualified for Post 4 on the city council.
Addressing concerns she was not in the office on Wednesday, Aug. 28, and only partially in the office on Thursday, Aug. 29, Jones said she was in city hall until the end of qualifying both days. Kirk said he knew of no irregularities in the city’s qualifying.
“To my knowledge at no point would someone not qualify in the city of Kingston. Now I was not there the whole time to attest to that, but I know Michelle left instructions,” Kirk said.
Clark said she had handled qualifying paperwork at city hall, but Jones notarized any documents as she is the notary.
Although he believed the speculation about qualifying were a product of a local rumor mill, Kirk said he welcomed questions about local elections.
“I will applaud someone for taking time to ensure everything is on the up and up, but the concept of me going out there to re-qualify people, it doesn’t make any sense,” Kirk said. “I have no authority to qualify anybody for the city of Kingston. I just happen to be a notary, and as such I can notarize any document so long as [I don’t] have a personal interest in it and it’s not a family member.”
An additional rumor mentioned in the email involved Jones supposedly abdicating her election responsibilities. Kirk addressed this question, saying the Kingston City Council’s next meeting will would determine whether the city will contract with the county for the Nov. 5 election. Even if the contract is approved, Kirk said, Jones will still be the city’s qualifying officer.