Last Friday's scheduled hearing to determine the eligibility of a candidate seeking election to the Fort Oglethorpe City Council was cancelled, allowing Steve Brandon's name to remain on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Orma Luckey, the city's superintendent of elections, called for a hearing to settle the matter after receiving a letter from Eddie Stinnett, who represents Ward 5 on the council, that questioned Brandon's ability to run and serve as a councilman.
Stinnett bested Brandon in the 2009 election and challenged his former opponent to represent Ward 4 on grounds that Brandon's being paid for service as a volunteer firefighter violated rules that council members cannot be city employees.
The compliant centered around Brandon being paid a set amount each time he is called and responds to fire service-related calls. In brief, it boiled down to the firefighter being paid a nominal stipend whenever he serves as a volunteer, according to city manager Ron Goulart.
"Remember that when the city took over Post Volunteer Fire Department last year that many of those volunteers became part-time employees but there were a handful that remained volunteers," Goulart said. "Eddie was under the impression that Steve was one who came on board as an employee but he did not. A review of our tax filings show that he did not, and was paid on a 'points' basis as a volunteer."
State law (UGC 36-60-23) states, "a volunteer firefighter for a county or municipal corporation shall be eligible to serve as a member of the governing authority of that county or municipal corporation so long as they receive no compensation other than reimbursement for actual expenses, a per diem allowance, contributions to the Georgia Firefighters Pension Fund pension fund or workers' compensation coverage."
Stinnett based his complaint on the belief that Brandon is issued an annual W-2 form, but Goulart said that is not the case and that Brandon receives an IRS 1099 form instead.
W-2s are for employees and show wages as well as deductions like taxes and Social Security withholdings; 1099s report a contract worker's income only.
"If Brandon had been an employee it would have been different," Goulart said.
1099s are issued to anyone who receives at least $600 per year for services and includes volunteer firefighters as well as appointed members to various city boards and commissions who receive compensation for attending meetings.
When shown how Brandon's compensation is reported to the IRS, Stinnett wrote Luckey asking that his complaint be withdrawn.
As superintendent of elections, it was Luckey's decision to cancel the hearing and allow Brandon to move forward with his campaign.
"The matter is over," Goulart said.