Keaton is one of three Republican candidates running in the July 31 primary to replace retiring Cobb Superior Court Clerk Jay Stephenson.
The elections board was already set to consider a request to prevent Joan Davis from running, but on Friday attorney Michael Carvalho of west Cobb filed a challenge asking it to bump Keaton from the ballot as well.
Carvalho argues that Keaton failed to follow election rules, which state that on the date of qualifying for office, the candidate must certify the name of the person they will appoint as their deputy clerk, if elected, with the Cobb Probate Court.
Carvalho said Keaton qualified on May 24, but didn’t file the name of Jason Shepherd as her running mate with the Probate Court until May 25. She then amended that filing by whiting out Shepherd’s name and writing in Kimberly Carroll in its place.
“It is not filed the same date that Ms. Keaton qualified. Accordingly, it should not be considered as a proper certification,” Carvalho writes in his June 8 challenge.
Keaton, who lives in Kennesaw, dismissed the argument.
“It’s a baseless challenge filed by a John Skelton supporter,” she said.
Skelton, a Powder Springs resident, is the third Republican running for superior court clerk seat.
The base salary of the new superior court clerk will be $109,425, while the salary of the deputy superior court clerk is $95,440, county spokesman Robert Quigley said.
Carvalho said that as someone who spends a lot of his practice in Cobb Superior Court, he has a keen interest in making sure that court functions properly. So when he saw that both Skelton and Keaton had qualified for office, he went to visit their websites.
“I had known Mr. Skelton for some time, and I had some interactions with Ms. Keaton,” Carvalho said. “I had gone to Mr. Skelton’s website to check it out, and to my utter astonishment I was redirected to Rebecca Keaton’s website.”
Carvalho tried typing “johnskelton4clerk.com” into the computer again and was again redirected to Keaton’s website.
“And then it became very clear that Mrs. Keaton thought that would be a cute thing to do,” Carvalho said. “That really got my attention. I know Mr. Skelton to be a very intelligent, thoughtful attorney and think he’d make a very good clerk of superior court, but with this kind of nonsense, I mean, we need some adults in charge, you know?”
Carvalho said Skelton had not asked him to file the challenge.
“I discussed it with my colleagues, I discussed it with the Cobb Consumer Attorneys Bar, and the consensus was we needed to respond to this particularly in light of the fact that there’s a timing issue here,” Carvalho said.
As an attorney, Carvalho depends on the court clerk to properly handle the complaints he files in court.
“If I file a complaint, for example, in Superior Court, and I miss the statute of limitations, I’m out of luck, my client’s out of luck, and I’m putting my malpractice carrier on notice,” he said. “Timing and filing is probably the most important thing a clerk can do, and if Mrs. Keaton doesn’t understand those rules and how that works, then that’s a significant issue. It goes right to her qualification to be in this position.”
On Tuesday, Marietta attorney Alan Manheim asked the elections board on behalf of his client, Barry J. Schwartz, who lives in the Cumberland area, to boot candidate Joan Davis from the ballot as well. Manheim’s objection is that Davis listed the current chief deputy clerk, Elva Dornbusch, as her running mate even though Dornbusch wants nothing to do with Davis.
Manheim also objected to Davis describing herself as a lawyer on the qualifying form because the Supreme Court of Georgia disbarred Davis earlier this year.
Davis, who also lives in Powder Springs, plans to defend herself at Monday’s meeting.
Carvalho said it was ridiculous that Davis was even running.
“As you probably know, she’s been disbarred as an attorney,” he said. “I think that says everything. What segment of our society would want a disbarred lawyer running an important position at the Superior Court? It’s silly and it’s ridiculous. We need some adults in charge, and right now the adult in the race is John Skelton.”
Skelton said while he was unaware of the challenge brought against Davis until alerted by the media, he did know about Keaton filing the name of her deputy clerk on a different day from when she qualified for office. Skeleton said he shared that fact with friends and supporters, of which Carvalho is one, but didn’t participate with Carvalho in filing the challenge.
“I appreciate his vigilance,” Skelton said. “I appreciate Mr. Schwartz and Alan Manheim representing him that there are rules for qualification, and if the rules aren’t followed then it seems to me that if you’re not willing to follow rules for qualifying, and if you’re in office where there are a lot more rules that have greater impact on folks that becomes a problem, and it could affect the office and the county as a whole.
“There are a lot of rules the clerk of the superior court has to abide by and has to follow in accepting filings, accepting cases and administering that position, and if they’re not met we’re going to have chaos.”
The meeting begins at 4 p.m. Monday at the elections office, located at 736 Whitlock Ave. in Marietta.
There are no Democrats running, so the winner of the primary will in all likelihood become the Superior Court clerk.