Incumbent mayor takes the oath in Mount Airy

Johnson is sworn in despite disputed ballots

May 17, 2002|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

Despite lingering questions about who won Mount Airy's mayoral election last week, incumbent Mayor Gerald R. Johnson had himself sworn in for a fourth term yesterday morning by the clerk of Carroll County Circuit Court.

Officially, Johnson defeated write-in candidate James S. Holt 492 votes to 311 in the election May 6, but Holt supporters say the town's Board of Elections discarded 259 votes for their candidate because the ballots contained only Holt's last name.

Two of those supporters, Michael Boyer and Constance S. McKain, filed a lawsuit yesterday afternoon asking a Circuit Court judge to count all ballots containing the name "Holt" as votes for James S. Holt. If they win the lawsuit, Holt would have enough votes to win the election, they say. Boyer said an initial hearing could be held as soon as today.

Attorneys on both sides said yesterday that despite having been sworn in, Johnson could be out of office if a judge rules that enough discarded votes count to change the results.

Johnson's swearing-in followed a decision Wednesday by the town's Board of Elections to uphold election results despite Boyer's formal objection. The mayor needed only certified election results to have himself sworn in, according to Circuit Court officials and the town attorney.

Johnson could not be reached for comment at Town Hall or at his home yesterday. His response since the election has been, "Until someone tells me otherwise, I'm the mayor."

Holt has not personally contested the election, but he reiterated that if the results are overturned, he will serve as mayor.

It's not unusual for the mayor to have himself sworn in by the court clerk, said Richard C. Murray, town attorney.

The town has to have an acting mayor, Murray said, and Johnson will have full authority with the suit against his victory pending.

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