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Candidate's residency called into question
Meadows seeks District 1 commission post
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Forsyth County News

For the second time in about a month, Forsyth County's election board is investigating whether a county commission candidate lives in the district he hopes to represent.

The board will hold a hearing June 17 to determine whether Brant Meadows is a District 1 resident.

Meadows' residency was questioned in an e-mail to Barbara Luth, county elections supervisor, who alerted the board to the matter.

Gary J. Smith, outgoing chairman of the board, said the e-mail questions whether Meadows is eligible to run because he had homestead exemptions on two properties in different districts.

“It is a good question and it’s a specific question that falls under some rules that we have for elections, which said that one of the things that you look at to determine a person’s residency is where they take out their homestead exemption,” Smith said.

He said the board agreed to schedule the hearing and instructed Luth to notify Meadows.

“Then we’ll just hold the hearing and look at the information and then based on that move forward within the stuff that we have jurisdiction over,” Smith said.

For his part, Meadows said his Bennington Lane residence is "right on the line" but is in District 1.

"Every other section in Windermere, all 22 of them, are in District 5," Meadows said. "I am the (farthest) south home in District 1."

News of the hearing comes about a month after another District 1 hopeful, Michael Robinson, was disqualified after the elections board discovered he did not live in the district, which includes some of Cumming and much of western Forsyth.

Robinson's qualifying paperwork showed his address is in District 3, a snag the elections office did not catch.

Until April 30, Meadows represented the Republican Party on the election panel. He resigned prior to qualifying to run for county commission District 1.

Meadows also serves as the District 1 representative on the county's planning commission.

The e-mail questioning Meadows' residency, a copy of which was obtained by the Forsyth County News, was sent by Jerry Bowman.

Attached to it were electronic copies of Meadows’ tax bills from 2004 and 2009 and maps showing the locations of the properties in question.

“As a resident and registered voter of District 1, and as a concerned citizen of Forsyth County, I am asking you to investigate the legitimacy of Mr. Meadows’ candidacy for the District 1 race,” Bowman wrote. “I am copying the Forsyth County Republican Party as well so that they may investigate as necessary.”

Forsyth County Tax Assessor Mary Kirkpatrick confirmed that Meadows’ first exemption claim was filed in 1993 for property on Timber Lake Trail, while the second was filed in 2003 for the Bennington Lane home.

Kirkpatrick said Meadows had been receiving homestead exemptions on both properties since 2004.

She said the error was brought to her office’s attention about two weeks ago and the exemption on the Timber Lake Trail property was deactivated May 25.

“It has been removed and it will not be on the 2010 tax digest,” she said, adding that he can be billed as far back as three years.

Kirkpatrick explained that the violation was likely missed because the error reporting system her office uses compares the names listed first as the property owners.

According to the homestead exemption applications, the Bennington Lane property is in Brant Meadows’ name alone. The Timber Lake Trail site is under his name and that of his wife, Michele Meadows, though she is listed as the primary owner.

“Even if we had seen it, we would’ve seen Brant Meadows on one and Michele Meadows on the other,” Kirkpatrick said.

She said said she wasn’t sure who brought the error to her office’s attention.

According to state law, filing a fraudulent claim for homestead exemption is considered a misdemeanor offense.

Kirkpatrick deferred comment on whether any charges would be brought against Meadows to County Attorney Ken Jarrard.

Jarrard said he was aware of the situation but could not comment further.

Meadows said Monday that he has paid what he owed, about $2,700, on the homestead matter.

He said the Bennington Lane property is his primary residence and he rents out the home on Timber Lake Trail.

His signature does not appear on a copy of the application for the homestead exemption on the Timber Lake Trail property. However, he apparently did sign the application for the site on Bennington Lane.

Meadows, who is owner and broker of Home Hunters Realty in Roswell, said he doesn’t remember applying for the Timber Lake Trail property. He said neither application is filled out in his handwriting.

He said within an hour after he qualified to run for election, he called the tax commissioner’s office to make sure everything was in order. He said he had his and his wife's names checked.

“The conversation was such that I said I’m running for office and I want to be inspected for compliance,” he said.

Meadows said he was “completely unaware” he had exemptions on both properties until he was asked about it by the Forsyth County News.

“When you look at your tax bill, unless you know what S1 L7 is, then you could easily miss it as well,” he said.

If he remains eligible in the District 1 contest, Meadows will face Pete Amos in the July 20 Republican primary.

Incumbent Commissioner Charles Laughinghouse is not seeking re-election.

The winner advances to oppose Democrat Mary Chatfield in the Nov. 2 general election.