Thursday, November 13, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Georgia Town Forgets To Hold Election


BACONTON, Ga. - Sometimes elected officials in small towns forget to pay a bill or update employment records.

In this southern Georgia town, they forgot to hold an election.

"I guess sometimes in these little itty-bitty towns . . . things get dropped between the cracks," City Attorney Tommy Coleman said yesterday.

Now, embarrassed officials are trying to explain the oversight, residents and outsiders are laughing and the secretary of state is considering asking for a change in the state's municipal election code.

The case of the forgotten election came to light only after former Mayor J.B. Tyre, who no longer lives in the area, called a friend to ask who won the Nov. 4 balloting.

The town of 880 was supposed to hold an election for three of its five City Council seats.

"I knew we were supposed to have an election. I just didn't think," said Tim Pinson, a longtime city councilman in Baconton, about 60 miles north of Tallahassee, Fla. "What can I tell you? We just messed up."

Coleman believes the three members didn't know their terms were up and failed to tell a new city clerk to schedule an election.

"There was no interest and there were no candidates," he said.

Pinson said the three seats in question were held by longtime council members.

"These three, if there was an election, would have been unopposed anyway," he said.

Because candidates have been unopposed, it's been four years since the town's 385 registered voters have cast ballots in local elections.

In Georgia, a slate of candidates can be confirmed without an election if they are unopposed.

Former Mayor Alton Griffin, who took office in January and resigned in April because he has cancer, said he decided to run after he found out there were no other candidates.

"I paid my $7 qualifying fee and . . . was sworn in as mayor," he said.

Numerous telephone messages left with the three council members were not returned. Mayor Tholen Edwards was out of town and not available for comment.

Baconton isn't the only town that slipped up. Pulaski, about 50 miles west of Savannah, didn't hold elections last week, either. For years, its elections have been held in December.

Monte Tillman, mayor of the town of 263, said he and others in Pulaski were unaware of the state law mandating general elections be held in November.

"For umpteen years we have always had it the first Tuesday of December," Tillman said.

Like Baconton, Pulaski has scheduled a special election for March 17.

Secretary of State Lewis Massey plans to ask the General Assembly to study whether the election code could be rewritten to make it more clear, said spokesman Chris Riggall.

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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