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Gulfport City Council May Rescind Vote on Appointment of a Convicted Felon to the City's Election Commission

by Keith Burton - GCN 11/26/08

GulfCoastNews.com has learned that the Gulfport City Council may soon revisit a recent decision regarding an appointment to the city's election commission offered by Mayor Brent Warr. It seems that the council at the mayor's suggestion approved the appointment of a convicted federal felon for the post.

At the council's Nov. 18 meeting, Mayor Warr submitted three names for the council for approval as his nominees to the city's election commission. Among names was Greg Stewart, a Gulfport businessman who was described in a letter to the council from Warr as being, "A native of Oxford, MS and moved to Gulfport with his family in 2003. He is the general manager of the new Ramada Inn Airport in Gulfport and attends Trinity United Methodist Church with his wife."

The only problem, there was more to Stewart than this brief bio. He is also a convicted federal felon, Joe Gregory Stewart. Stewart pleaded guilty to one count of a federal conspiracy to commit extortion charge in March 2004 when he was a practicing attorney. He was disbarred after pleading guilty, paid a fine and served a three year probation. In September of this year, he sought, and was denied reinstatement as an attorney by the Mississippi Supreme Court.

A municipal election commission has broad powers. Besides coordinating city elections, election commissions are also tasked with qualifying and purging voter rolls.

GCN found that Stewart had registered to vote in both municipal and county elections Aug. 12, 2004, less than a month before his disbarment on Sept. 1, 2004, according to city and county officials contacted by GulfCoastNews.com. State laws prohibit felons from voting if convicted for certain crimes. Stewart's extortion conviction does appear to be among the crimes that trigger the voting prohibition.

When the council was offered Warr's lists of nominees for the election commission, the vote was unanimous, with the exception of Councilmembers Libby Roland and Neil Resh, who were absent. But the council had very little information on the candidates. And with numerous past squabbles over Warr's various appointments, Warr's normal opposition of Councilmembers Barbara Nalley, Ella-Holmes Hines and Brian Carriere, chose to go along and at the time of the vote, they were unaware of Stewart's background.

At this point, nobody really wants to talk about the issue on the record, although a resolution to reintroduce the measure may be presented at the next meeting.

Reportedly, City Administrator Dr. John Kelly says that Stewart has asked to withdraw his name and not accept Warr's recommended and council-approved nomination. Kelly has indicated to some councilmembers that the Warr administration was aware of Stewart's background. Even with the withdrawal, the city council must vote again to remove the Stewart appointment from the official record.

GCN attempted to contact Stewart at his business and was told that he was out of town. A call to Dr. Kelly was not returned.


Additional Information:

Stewart Ruling by Miss. Supreme Court - .pdf file

Mayor Brent Warr's Letter on Election Commission Nominees - .pdf file

The Cop and the Criminal Defense Attorney - overlawyered.com

Section 241. Qualifications for electors. (Mississippi Code)

Every inhabitant of this state, except idiots and insane persons, who is a citizen of the United States of America, eighteen (18) years old and upward, who has been a resident of this state for one (1) year, and for one (1) year in the county in which he offers to vote, and for six (6) months in the election precinct or in the incorporated city or town in which he offers to vote, and who is duly registered as provided in this article, and who has never been convicted of murder, rape, bribery, theft, arson, obtaining money or goods under false pretense, perjury, forgery, embezzlement or bigamy, is declared to be a qualified elector, except that he shall be qualified to vote for President and Vice President of the United States if he meets the requirements established by Congress therefor and is otherwise a qualified elector. 

 

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