A candidate in the Second District Council race wants a Fayette Circuit Court judge to decide whether incumbent Shevawn Akers is qualified to run for office Nov. 4.
In a lawsuit filed Friday, Michael Stuart alleges that Akers doesn't have the required 100 signatures of qualified voters in her district. Stuart also alleges that Akers was not living in the district six months before filing to run for re-election in January. That residency period is a requirement to run for council.
If a judge decides that Akers does not have the required number of signatures and/or doesn't meet the residency requirement, ballots cast for Akers on Nov. 4 would not be counted. Akers' name would appear on the ballot because she has been certified as a candidate, said Christy Trout, a lawyer for Stuart.
Akers was first elected in 2012.
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Akers said Monday the lawsuit was frivolous and politically motivated.
"This is another desperate attempt by my opponent to take this council seat by silencing voters," she said. "While he spends his time filing frivolous lawsuits, I will continue working for my constituents to improve our parks, support small business and strengthen neighborhoods in my district. "
The lawsuit alleges that Akers has only 92 eligible signatures, eight fewer than needed. The lawsuit says that of the 151 signatures on Akers' candidacy petition, 59 should be disqualified because they were forged, they were printed but not signed, they were ineligible, or they were by people who either weren't registered to vote or didn't live in the district.
On Aug. 29, Akers was placed in a diversion program for charges related to improprieties regarding the signatures on her candidacy petition. Part of that diversion program probably will include community service. Her lawyer has said the problems stemmed from a clerical mistake.
Akers was served a summons in May, citing her with "unsworn falsification to authorities," a Class B misdemeanor.
Candidates must turn in 100 signatures of people in their districts as part of the paperwork to run for office. The person who obtained the signatures is required to sign a form saying he or she obtained the signatures. There was a question about whether one of Akers' forms was signed by the appropriate person, officials said at the time.
In addition to questions about Akers' signature, the lawsuit alleges that the charter of the merged government stipulates that a candidate must have "resided within the district for at least six months prior to filing as a candidate."
According to records obtained by a licensed private investigator and included in the lawsuit, Akers allegedly listed an address on Lori Lane on official documents sometime between September 2013 and February. Lori Lane is outside of her district.
Akers also listed an address on Lucille Drive from October 2013 to February, according to the lawsuit. Lucille Drive is in her district.
The Second District is on the northwest side of Lexington and includes Leestown Road and the Meadowthorpe and Masterson Station neighborhoods.
Akers has previously denied that she lived outside of her district and said she lived with a friend on Lucille Drive during the period in question. Akers told the Herald-Leader in January that the home on Lori Lane was her fiancé's house, where she sometimes stayed but did not live. Akers said in January that she has since moved to a different home in the Second District.
In the May primary, Akers got more votes than Stuart and a third challenger, Byron Costner. Akers led Stuart by approximately 16 percentage points, or 496 votes. Council races are nonpartisan.
Stuart, a small-business owner and a first-time candidate, said in a written statement that questions about the legitimacy of Akers' candidacy have been distracting to the voters of the Second District. It's time those questions were answered, he said.
"I believe good government is predicated on the commitment of our public officials to honesty, transparency and fairness," he said. "I am hopeful the court's review and ultimate ruling on this petition will uphold and reinforce these principles."
Stuart is asking a judge for a hearing and the Fayette County Clerk's office to produce voter registration cards to verify the signatures on Akers' petition.
County Clerk Don Blevins Jr. also is named in the lawsuit because he needs a court order to verify the names on the petition, according to the lawsuit.
Trout said Fayette Circuit Judge Thomas Clark probably would schedule a hearing soon. Trout said the law says that challenges of a candidate's qualifications — called bona fides — must be determined by circuit court. The challenge may be initiated by any voter in a district.