Politics & Government

Lexington councilman files lawsuit to get opponent knocked off ballot

Lexington Councilman Fred Brown has filed a lawsuit trying to get his November General Election opponent off the ballot, alleging Christian Motley did not submit enough valid signatures when he filed to run.

Brown, who represents the 8th Council District on the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council, filed the lawsuit in Fayette Circuit Court on July 29. He alleges Motley, a first-time but much better-funded candidate, failed to submit the required 100 valid signatures of voters in the district.

Of the 118 people who signed Motley’s petition, at least six did not live in the district, Brown alleges. Five of the signatures appeared to be signed by the same person, which should invalidate four more signatures, according to the lawsuit. And other people allegedly signed the petition for more than one person, or provided signatures that are illegible.

That means Motley only had 88 signatures of registered voters, wrote Alex Scutchfield, a lawyer for Brown.

“Mr. Brown did not take the decision to file this case lightly,” Scutchfield said. “The fact is, though, Mr. Motley did not obtain enough valid signatures to run for this office. We look forward to presenting our case to Judge Scorsone next week.”

Motely contends he submitted more than enough signatures of voters and is qualified to run for office.

“This is a last-ditch effort by an incumbent who has not even campaigned,” said Anna Whites, a lawyer for Motley.

A trial in the case is set for Aug. 28.

Motley, who has previously served as a deputy executive director for the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood and as a staffer for the U.S. Department of Education, has raised $20,396 and has more than $15,572 on hand, according to a July 21 report filed by the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.

He now works for an education nonprofit.

Brown has raised no money, according to campaign finance reports.

The 8th District includes an area south of New Circle Road between Tates Creek Road and Alumni Drive. Brown, an accountant, served on the council from 1994 to 2004. He was elected again in 2014 and in 2016.

The race is non-partisan, but Brown is a Republican and Motley is a Democrat.

Several people whose signatures are in question — including the Fayette Circuit Court Clerk Vincent Riggs — have been subpoenaed to testify.

Brown is not the first Lexington council candidate who has tried to get their opponent disqualified by questioning the validity of signatures on a candidate’s petition.

Bill Roberts, a former chairman of the Fayette County Republican Party, filed a lawsuit in 2006 against Julian Beard questioning some of Beard’s signatures in the 4th Council District race. Beard won that case and also won the race.

Also in 2006, K.C. Crosbie filed a lawsuit challenging the validity of signatures on the petition of one of her two opponents in a 7th Council District primary election. Crosbie won the lawsuit, removing one of her opponents from the ballot, and later won the race.

In 2012, Councilwoman Jennifer Scutchfield questioned the validity of the signatures of an opponent in the 7th Council District race. The opponent voluntarily withdrew from the race. Jennifer Scutchfield is married to Alex Scutchfield, who is representing Brown.

In 2014, Michael Stuart filed a lawsuit challenging the validity of the signatures on incumbent Councilwoman Shevawn Akers’ petition for candidacy. The lawsuit also questioned whether Akers lived in her district six months prior to the election. A Fayette Circuit Court judge sided with Akers and ruled she met the requirements to run. Akers beat Stuart in the 2nd Council District race in November 2014.

In 2016, a lawsuit was filed in Fayette Circuit Court challenging the signatures on incumbent James Brown’s petition for candidacy. Brown won the case and the election in a landslide victory.