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Attorney says he was barred from meeting on sheriff's election

By By Steve Gillespie/staff writer
September 20, 2003
The attorney for Kemper County sheriff's candidate Johnny Harpole said Friday he was prohibited from entering a Democratic Executive Committee meeting to discuss a challenge of the Aug. 26 runoff.
Bill Ready Jr. said he wanted to talk to the committee about possibly changing the date of a formal hearing on Harpole's challenge from 1 p.m. Monday to another date and time.
Ready said that Earl Thomas, Democratic Executive Committee chairman, set the hearing for Monday without consulting Harpole to find an agreeable date. Thomas kept Ready from attending the Friday meeting.
Thomas could not be reached for comment on Friday and did not return phone calls.
Harpole filed a petition Sept. 12 to contest the runoff in which incumbent Sheriff Samuel Tisdale won by 45 votes. If that election stands, Tisdale will meet independents Rusty Calvert, Ronnie Rankin and Glen Williams in the Nov. 4 general election.
Among other things, Harpole's petition charges that convicted felons voted in the runoff, sheriff's deputies took inmates to the polls and names of deceased people appeared on voting sign-in sheets.
He also charges that people voted in precincts in which they didn't live, 50 absentee ballots are missing and unaccounted for and some absentee ballots that were counted were not notarized or were incomplete.
The Democratic Executive Committee meeting, which Thomas said Thursday would be held to discuss the Harpole hearing, started at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
During a break, Ready said he asked Thomas to sign subpoenas for witnesses to appear on Monday. He said Thomas refused to do so unless Ready gave him the names of witnesses he intended to subpoena.
Kemper County Circuit Clerk Roma Allen said she was not in the meeting, but that it ended sometime before lunch. She and Ready said the Harpole hearing is set for 1 p.m. Monday in the second-floor courtroom.
Allen said she doesn't expect to be a part of the hearing since she wasn't the Kemper County circuit clerk when the election in question was held.
Allen was appointed circuit clerk by the Kemper County Board of Supervisors on Sept. 2, after the resignation of Blanche Clay who served as circuit clerk for 25 years.
Allen, who won the Democratic Party primary last month, faces independent candidate Wanda Dancy in the Nov. 4 general election for circuit clerk.