A voter in Lexington's 1st District wants a Fayette Circuit judge to decide if incumbent councilman James Brown can run in a special election Tuesday.
The lawsuit challenging Brown's candidacy alleges 47 of the 133 signatures on Brown's petition for candidacy are invalid. The lawsuit alleges Brown has only 86 of the 100 signatures required to run for office.
Jeremy Law, a lawyer, filed the lawsuit in Fayette Circuit Court on Thursday.
Brown, a Realtor, was appointed to the position by Mayor Jim Gray in April after former councilman Chris Ford stepped down to become the city's social service commissioner. Brown faces Jim Burton, a first-time candidate and insurance adjustor, on Tuesday. The 1st District race is the only Urban County Council race on the ballot. It is nonpartisan.
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Christine Trout, a lawyer representing Law, asked for an expedited hearing because of Tuesday's election. As of late Thursday, a hearing date had not been set. The charter of the Urban County Government says a candidate for city office must get 100 signatures of "qualified voters of an individual district."
The lawsuit alleges that there were problems with the notarizations of at least two pages of voter signatures on Brown's candidacy filing papers. An entire page of signatures had no back-up notarization — which would invalidate 12 signatures on that page, the lawsuit argues. Another page containing 18 signatures was notarized by the person collecting the signatures. The lawsuit alleges that someone can not notarize his own signature.
In addition, the lawsuit alleges people signed the petition who are not registered to vote, do not live in the district or whose signatures were illegible. One person signed both Burton's and Brown's petitions, which is also not allowed, the lawsuit alleges.
Brown said an email from a reporter was the first he had heard about the complaint. "I can personally attest to the integrity of my ballot petition because I've walked 1st District neighborhoods collecting most of the required signatures myself," he said.
Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins Jr. was also named in the lawsuit. Blevins said Thursday the county clerk's office checks only to see that the forms are in order and candidates have 100 signatures. The clerk's office does not verify or certify the 100 signatures are from qualified voters in that district.
When asked if Law knows Burton, Trout said Law was a concerned citizen who lives in the 1st District who had concerns that the law may not have been followed.
Burton said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on a pending lawsuit. "I am not filing this," Burton said.
This is the second time in two years that signatures on candidacy filing papers have been challenged in Fayette Circuit Court. In 2014, Michael Stuart, a candidate in the 2nd District council race, challenged the validity of the 100 signatures on incumbent Shevawn Akers' candidacy filing papers. In that case, Fayette Circuit Court Judge Thomas Clark ruled in Akers' favor. Akers beat Stuart by 550 votes.