Fort Oglethorpe councilman says candidate not fit to run because he's a volunteer firefighter

Fort Oglethorpe councilman says candidate not fit to run because he's a volunteer firefighter

September 20th, 2011 by Andy Johns in News

Eddie Stinnett. Contributed Photo

A complaint filed in Fort Oglethorpe seeks to boot one City Council candidate from the race before the first vote is cast.

Council member Eddie Stinnett filed a challenge saying Steve Brandon is not fit to run for election because Brandon is a volunteer firefighter.

Brandon, a former councilman, is running against Councilman Charles Sharrock and former Councilman Harold Silcox in a race set to be decided Nov. 8. But Brandon's campaign could end Friday, when he's scheduled for a hearing with city Elections Superintendent Orma Luckey.

"It's a shame that I'm being penalized for being a volunteer fireman," Brandon said Monday. "That's ludicrous."

The Georgia Code defines a volunteer firefighter as one who receives no compensation for work other than reimbursement for expense, per diem money, worker's compensation coverage and pension contribution. If the person fits that criteria, the code states "a volunteer firefighter for a county or municipal corporation shall be eligible to serve as a member of the governing authority."

The complaint letter signed by Stinnett states Brandon receives compensation for his work through the city department, so he should not be a councilman.

"[Brandon] is unqualified to seek or hold office as a councilman for the city of Fort Oglethorpe," Stinnett wrote.

Attempts to reach Stinnett Monday were unsuccessful.

Brandon said he receives a maximum of $4.40 per call as reimbursement and that rarely covers his gas.

"I was not a city employee then, and I am not a city employee now," Brandon said.

Brandon said he's also frustrated that Stinnett would file the complaint.

"He's not even in this race," he said. "I can only surmise he doesn't like me on the council."

Sharrock, the incumbent who will battle Brandon and Silcox in the election, said he can't remember a challenge like this in his 40 years around the city. But he said he's not taking sides.

"I'm trying to stay neutral on this issue," Sharrock said. "This is their ballgame, not mine."

Attempts to reach Silcox were unsuccessful.

The hearing is set for 9 a.m. Friday at City Hall, according to Luckey. She said both sides will have a chance to plead their case.

"Each one will have their turn," she said.

Contact staff writer Andy Johns at ajohns@timesfreepress.com or call 423-757-6324.