by Robin Kemp

CORRECTION: Antoine is in Ward 2

The Georgia State Elections Board approved a consent order against Forest Park Ward 2 Councilman Dabouze Antoine for his violation of the 150-foot distance rule during the 2017 municipal election.

The SEB ordered Antoine to “cease and desist from further violations of the Election Code, and hereby publicly reprimands” him. In addition, Dabouze was ordered to pay a $250 civil fine within 60 days of the order issued this afternoon (Wednesday, August 18, 2021).

Antoine “denies any willful misconduct” and admits that evidence shows he violated the law.

According to the consent order, an investigation found that Antoine “was photographed campaigning within 150 feet of the Forest Park Recreation Center polling location” on November 7, 2017. “An election official and law enforcement confronted [Antoine] while he was holding a campaign sign and asked him to move beyond the 150-feet warning sign. [Antoine] reportedly complied. By campaigning within 150 feet of a polling place, [Antoine] violated O.C.G.A. 21-2-414(a)(1) of the Georgia Election Code.”

The SEB case number is 2017-075.

On Tuesday, Antoine qualified to run for reelection in the upcoming November 2 municipal election.

Forest Park recently hired former Spalding County elections director Marcia Ridley as a contractor to handle preparations for the upcoming election. Ridley got the job before giving a presentation on her company, Intact Consulting, Inc., at the June 6 city council work session.

A check of the Secretary of State’s online business filings show Ridley’s company was formed June 11, a few days after her presentation to the Forest Park City Council. At the time, City Manager Dr. Marc-Antonie Cooper said, “Per our City Attorney, the city can enter into the agreement with Ms. Ridley and Intact without the Articles of Incorporation. We don’t need then to sign an agreement for her services.”

The Clayton Crescent has filed an Open Records Request with the city for a copy of the city’s contract with Ridley or her company and more information as to how the company was chosen.

In a separate action at today’s meeting the SEB referred Ridley to Attorney General Chris Carr’s office for numerous alleged violations of election law in the November 2020 Presidential election.

Ridley’s contract includes a $10,000 consulting fee, plus $25,208.50 for supplies, including Dominion Voting Systems ImageCast precinct tabulators and ballot boxes, supplies like black markers and 16GB compact flash memory cards, and Election Day on-site support.

The city council took the action after removing longtime elections director Lois Wright from her post. Wright, who also had been referred to the attorney general’s office for alleged violations of state election law, chairs the city’s Development Authority and sits on two other city development boards. One of those cases involved a flyer that promoted a freeport exemption to woo businesses to the Gillem Logistics Center. The flyer was posted inside the polling place and handed to voters (including this reporter) as they entered to cast their ballots.

The city has transferred the election supervisor role to City Clerk S. Diane White’s office and will use equipment provided by the Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration.

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