In a stunning move, Judge David Sweat ruled Oct. 2 that the recall efforts against Hoschton Mayor Theresa Kenerly and mayor pro tem Jim Cleveland can move forward. The ruling is one of the very few times in Georgia that a superior court judge has allowed a recall movement against a public official to go forward after it has been challenged.
Judge Sweat found that there is sufficient grounds against Kenerly and Cleveland to allow the recall to move to the next phase. The two had challenged the recall effort in court, which led to the Oct. 2 hearing.
Kenerly came under fire in May after another Hoschton City Council member disclosed that the mayor had told her she'd pulled an application for a city administrator job candidate because he was a black man and the town "wasn't ready for that."
Cleveland responded by defending Kenerly and voicing his personal views against interracial relationships.
When all that became public, the backlash in the small West Jackson town was fierce with numerous people packing city hall calling on the two to resign. When that didn't happen, a group organized a recall push to have Kenerly and Cleveland removed from office.
In ruling that sufficient grounds exist for the recall, the judge opened the way for recall organizers to gather the signatures of 30 percent of voters which would in turn force a recall election in the town.
The three areas the judge found sufficient against Kenerly were: Regarding her pulling the job application; failure to oversee that a city ethics commission was established; and violating rules by not bidding out a project over $5,000.
One sufficient count was upheld against Cleveland, that he failed to establish a city ethics commission, which is the responsibility of the mayor pro tem. The complaint about Cleveland's interracial comments was pulled at the hearing and wasn't part of the final decision. Judge Sweat also found that there was insufficient grounds against Cleveland over the bidding of a city project.
WHAT'S NEXT: Look for additional details about the hearing and the next steps for the recall movement in the Oct. 10 issue of The Braselton News.