by Robin Kemp

A political neophyte whose LinkedIn page said she worked at McDonalds and who Forest Park officials had qualified to run in the Ward 1 race against Councilwoman Kimberly James has been disqualified for allegedly giving a false address on her candidate paperwork.

Deonetra Riggins submitted 604 Ward Place as her home address. However, that house burned down on June 1, according to a complaint filed by Trudy Smith, who also is running in Ward 1.

On August 25, Smith sent a letter challenging Riggins’ address, noting that 604 Ward Place “is an uninhabitable residence. The residence was rendered uninhabitable when it was severely damaged due to a fire on approximately June 1, 2021.” Smith included a photo of the house taken on August 25, which showed extensive fire damage, a boarded-up window, and yellow caution tape reading “Fire Line Do Not Cross.”

On September 3, City Clerk S. Diane White sent Riggins a disqualification notice by certified mail to an address on Currie Drive, referencing a hearing that had been held on Thursday, September 2.

“After hearing and reviewing the evidence against you in this matter, I have no other choice but to declare you disqualified to be a candidate for the City Councilmember Ward 1 seat in the November 2021 municipal election,” White wrote. “My decision was based on the fact that you knowingly listed your address as 604 Ward Place on the Notice of Candidacy and Affidavit form on August 18th which was not your current place of residence, and you did not provide any tangible proof of your residency.”

White copied the letter to Fulton County Elections chief Blake Evans, the Department of Registration and Elections, and Georgia Secretary of State Elections Liaison Leigh Combs, as well as to Smith and James.

Tax rolls show 604 Ward Place is owned by Pearson Properties Residential, LLC, at 661 Forest Parkway, Suite A. The company owns 22 properties around Clayton County, including a 17 in Forest Park. The company’s current registered agent is David Pearson. On April 30, 2001, attorney Jack Hancock incorporated the company as its initial registered agent, with offices at his law firm.

The Ward Place house is on the corner of Hendrix Drive behind Unidos Dual Language Academy and looked on September 4 as it did in the August 25 photo. The Clayton Crescent attempted to reach Riggins for comment but no one responded.

City receipts show Riggins, who apparently was displaced by the recent fire and whose qualifying paperwork lists her profession as “salesperson,” pad the $432 qualifying fee in cash:

In 2019, Ward 3 council candidate Patricia Manley’s candidacy was challenged by then-Ward 3 Councilmember Sandra Bagley. Bagley alleged that Manley had given a false address, specifically a house of Evelyn Drive from which Manley had been evicted. Supervisor Lois Wright ruled that the address was correct because a friend of Manley’s later rented the house and let Manley live there. Bagley was about to file suit when Wright later disqualified Manley for writing a bad check for her qualifying fee. Bagley then sued Wright, arguing in part that Manley should not have been qualified in the first place. The case was dismissed on procedural grounds because Bagley had filed after the deadline to challenge the election.

Like Manley, Riggins had fallen on hard times and suffered from bad health before running for the council seat.

Riggins’ Twitter account indicated she had lost her job last year, was one of many Georgians who had not gotten unemployment benefits, retweeted sweepstakes-like tweets, and requests for money for medical help: “Don’t know what to do I gotta have surgery on my stomach because my ulcers have gotten bad and can’t work so no income and can’t afford my meds somebody help me please anything would help!!!!”

Manley, who said she had been evicted after falling behind on rent due to being hospitalized for a burst appendix, has posted a podcast to Facebook that was highly critical of both James and Mayor Angelyne Butler and encouraged people to vote for Alieka Anderson in the District 1 Board of Commissioners race. (As a nonprofit newsroom, The Clayton Crescent does not endorse any political candidates.) The Clayton Crescent has asked Manley whether she was involved in Riggins’ campaign and whether she still lives in Forest Park.

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