School Board Chairman wins his case - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

School Board Chairman wins his case

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September 27, 2006

Cuthbert -- A strange redistricting controversy led to charges of racial discrimination in Randolph County.

The School Board chairman says the state split his home into two separate districts and tried to make him run for re-election in the district he doesn't want to represent. He took his complaints to the U. S. Department of Justice.  

Every 10 years, county leaders redraw their district lines. In 2002, Randolph County leaders did, and affected School Board Chair Henry Cook, because the new district line goes right through his property.

"Certain members on the county commission have spent tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees to Tommy Coleman to do everything possible to keep me from being in district 5," Cook said. "Those funds are taxpayers dollars that shouldn't be used to fight a personal vendetta."

He's served district 5 for 13 years, a district with more than 70% black. He says the Board of Registrars met in a special meeting early this year to shift him to district 4, which is 70% white.

Even though in 2002, a Superior Court Judge ruled Cook was eligible to vote and run for office in District 5. This month, the U.S. Department of Justice ruled the changes are "Legally unenforceable" saying "We cannot conclude that the County has sustained its burden of showing that the proposed change does not have a discriminatory purpose."

We went to the Chief Registrar, Carol Raye, for answers. This is what we got. "No thank you, I'm not going to say a word."

"It doesn't involve you huh?" we asked.

"It involves me, but I'm not going to say anything. No comment."

After a few minutes, we came back to see if she would talk off camera, she closed the door in our face.

We went to Randolph County's attorney to find out why Cook's district was re-drawn by splitting his home in half. "That's one of the questions the Justice Department asked and we began to look to see how many pieces of property in Randolph County were split. We ended up with 15 and they said 'Stop looking because it's fairly common.'"

Cook feels its a push to get him out of office. "I plan on being on the Board of Education. I'm in district 5."

Unless the high court says otherwise.

The county's attorney says they've been contacted by national law firms interested in representing the board of registrars to appeal the Department of Justice's ruling.

The FBI has been contacted to investigate possible fraud in how the redistricting was handled.

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