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Elections board affirms candidate's qualifications
Tax commissioner had questioned challenger's educational background
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Forsyth County News
The race for tax commissioner will continue as planned after the Forsyth County Board of Elections voted 3-0 on Monday to approve Bill Jenkins as a qualified candidate.
The board met Monday to determine if Jenkins, who is challenging incumbent Matthew Ledbetter, had met the educational requirements to qualify for the contest.
Tax commissioner candidates must have a high school education or equivalent, a requirement the panel determined Jenkins has met.
Jenkins and Ledbetter, both Republicans, face off in the July 15 primary. There is no opposition from a Democrat, so the winner will claim the post.
At Monday's meeting, Board Chairman Gary J. Smith, who conducted the bulk of the investigation for the panel, offered some background on the situation.
On June 20, Ledbetter contacted the board about his opponent's education. However, Smith said, the two-week time limit to challenge a candidate's qualifications had ended.
The three-member board, free to charter its own investigation on a candidate, followed up and requested proof from Jenkins, 60, that he had earned the equivalent of a high school diploma.
Smith said Jenkins provided a certificate from the U.S. Armed Forces Institute showing he had achieved passing scores on the "test of general educational development," at the high school level in 1970. The certificate, however, also indicated it was not a high school diploma or an equivalency certificate.
Jenkins, who has spent more than 30 years in corporate management, was then asked to provide more evidence he had obtained a GED. Due to the age of the document, the ink had faded since it was printed and the certificate was illegible.
According to Smith, Jenkins said he would contact the institute and submit a new copy by the time he took office, if elected.
The GED copy may have been illegible, but the list of college courses Jenkins had taken was not. That led Smith on a hunt to find out if colleges would allow a student to take classes without first having earned a GED.
Beginning in 1981, Jenkins took classes at Gainesville College and DeKalb College. Smith said he contacted Gainesville College and was told by officials that a student was required to have a GED in order to attend the school.
"I really have investigated, from my standpoint, quite a bit on this thing," Smith said. "I think it's unfortunate that we didn't have some of this earlier. It would have been easier for us to move ahead."
Jenkins, who could not attend the meeting Monday due to a conflict with work, said Tuesday morning that he supported the information Smith presented to the board and "didn't realize there was an issue."
"It's pretty common knowledge around the educated world that when someone enters the armed forces ... the first requirement is that you have a high school diploma or the equivalent," Jenkins said. "If you do not have a high school diploma or the equivalent, it's mandatory that you take classes and pass the GED testing."
Ledbetter, 41, is a graduate of Forsyth County High School and the University of Georgia. He was represented in his individual capacity as a candidate by attorney Dana Miles.
Ledbetter and Miles attended the session, as did County Attorney Ken Jarrard.
Elections board member Brant Meadows made the motion to approve Jenkins' qualifications.
"I get real sensitive about military personnel, fighting for our freedom ... the very freedom we're talking about taking away," Meadows said. "I tend to want to hedge on the side of an abundance of caution provided with the information that I've seen.
"It seems to me a strong indicator that recognized equivalent criteria has been met."