Heard heads to court over election candidacy

Lorenzo Heard at a press conference in August. / File

Lorenzo Heard is stepping into the courtroom Monday morning after issues regarding his candidacy arose with the Dougherty County Board of Elections.

Heard filed suit after his application to run as a independent candidate in the Dougherty County School Board At Large race was denied.

In the opening arguments Monday morning, Heard's lawyer Maurice King said that board clerks should have accepted his affidavit and and let the Board of Elections decide on the validity of the application. He added that this is for the people to decide who to vote for.

Ed Collier, attorney for the Dougherty County Board of Elections, stated in his opening arguments that the petitions didn't comply with the law for multiple reasons. He added that the Board of Elections keep the laws upheld regarding applications and petitions.

The first witness to be questioned was the chairman of the board, Alan Pendleton. Maurice King asked Pendleton several questions including who had the authority to dismiss a candidate's application. King asked if the clerks with the board of elections should have accepted the documents and left it to the board to decide, Pendleton agreed that it should have been accepted.

Pendleton was additionally asked about the correct number of petitions Heard needed to qualify. Pendleton responded that it was five percent of active registered voters during the previous election.

Next up for questioning was Sharon Burns Ambrose, who is the administrative assistant for the Board of Elections. She was questioned about her training and asked her if Clinton Johnson came to her with paperwork for Heard's candidacy on the last day of eligibility. She responded that Johnson turned in the paperwork and if the papers were an original copy, he then took it from her and put it in his back pocket. She said that he responded to the question but did not hear what he said.

Through questioning, it was learned that protocol is if something is dated and time stamped, it shouldn't have left the office. Afterwards, she stated that she found out she wasn't to suppose to let the paperwork leave the office. Lawyers for Heard asked her if she was trained to know that and she she said no.

The day before Aug 3rd when he came in, they received a call asking that if a candidate wanted to qualify as a write-in candidate, they asked how it would work. The response was that the paperwork would have to be Fed Ex'ed, mailed in, or have an agent drop it off.

She was asked what she has learned, and she responded that she shouldn't have let the paperwork leave the office and she should have asked someone to come over and check the paperwork. They asked her if on August 3rd if the matter was brought up again and she said no. She stated the next time the case was brought up was on August 6th. She was then asked what is Ginger Nickerson's title? She said supervisor and mentioned that she has been referenced as the superintendent during meetings.

Ginger Nickerson then was called for questioning and asked what her official title was. She responded supervisor and she was unsure of why Pendleton and Ambrose said she occasionally acted as superintendent.

She also said that Ambrose did know about the papers not leaving the office and that they did talk about it later on Friday after receiving a call on Friday as to why he wasn't allowed in as a write-in candidate. She added that she didn't know why Ambrose said that they did not speak until Monday.

Nickerson stated that she called the Georgia Secretary of State to see if an original copy was necessary and that the Secretary of State's office said that the original signature and notary stamp were required. They asked her if the paperwork was original, and she stated that later on she found out that yes it was and that the papers and fee should have been taken.

Court has taken a break for lunch and will finish questioning Nickerson afterwards.

Stay connected to as the story develops and the FOX 31 Newscast at 10 PM.