Election's over, but Sharrock lawsuit lingers

Charles Sharrock

A resident in Fort Oglethorpe filed a lawsuit two months ago to stop Charles Sharrock from running for election to the City Council.

Sharrock ran anyway. And he lost, badly. He got just 22 percent of the vote in a two-person race. But the lawsuit is still sitting in court, still waiting for lawyers to get together and argue legal precedents in front of a judge.

What gives?

Sharrock says a judge should dismiss the lawsuit. So does Fort Oglethorpe's mayor, Lynn Long. Why hold a hearing to determine if Sharrock could run if he's already lost?

"It's all moot," Sharrock said.

But Stuart James, the attorney for the resident who filed the lawsuit, said the suit must go on because it deals with a bigger issue than just Sharrock's candidacy. In his filing, James asked a judge to rule that Fort Oglethorpe Elections Superintendent Orma Luckey is unfit to serve in office.

James said Luckey should lose her job because she said Sharrock was qualified to run for the came City Council seat he lost in November 2012, when the rest of the council fired him amid claims of sexual harassment. Superior Court Judge Jon "Bo" Wood later upheld the council's decision, saying Sharrock "committed the use of illegal conduct."

In October, after resident Steve Cooper challenged Sharrock's candidacy, Luckey held a hearing. But James said Luckey violated Cooper's right to due process because she did not let him call witnesses or cross-examine Sharrock.

He also said she was biased because she bought ballots with Sharrock's name on them with her own money before that October hearing.

Now, James wants a judge to rule that Luckey broke the law. He also wants a ruling that Sharrock committed perjury when he registered to run for office this year and signed a document stating he had never been found guilty of malfeasance.

"We want someone to define an (elections) administrator's role," James said. "I think she exceeded her authority."

A Jan. 21 hearing is set.

Luckey said she held the hearing the way she was supposed to.

"It's not a judgment hearing," she said. "It's a hearing for the superintendent to hear both sides to see if they have a different slant on the decision that was made. That's all up to the superintendent."

On Monday, the Fort Oglethorpe City Council voted to give Luckey $5,000 to pay for her own attorney. She has hired Chris Townley and is not using City Attorney Robert Stultz.

Luckey said Stultz does not represent her because she is not a city employee. Rather, she is appointed by the council and the mayor.

But City Manager Ron Goulart said there was a second issue as well. In September, Stultz wrote Luckey a letter asking her not to let Sharrock be on the ballot. He said the city charter did not allow Sharrock to try to regain his seat during his original term.

Because Luckey ignored Stultz's advice, Goulart said, Stultz cannot represent her in court.

"It would certainly create the appearance of a conflict, if not a definite conflict," Goulart said.

Sharrock, meanwhile, believes the active lawsuit is a waste of money.

"There's nothing that I did that was illegal," he said. "There's nothing that Ms. Luckey did that was illegal. ... They done it just to cost people money. That's one thing. They also done it to slander people. They want Ms. Luckey done."

Long, the mayor, echoed Sharrock's statement, pointing out that the cost is paid by city taxpayers.

"The election is over and done and finished. Why beat a dead horse? There's nothing to really talk about. Get over it and go on."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6476.