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Kelly won’t represent registrars

Legal counsel for Dallas County will not represent local registrars in a lawsuit filed by a woman who unsuccessfully ran for office.

John Kelly represents the county and said this week he filed a notice of non-representation for the Dallas County Board of Registrars and Chief Registrar Synethia Pettaway, both named in a suit filed by Carolyn C. Bates.

Bates came in fourth in a field of five candidates for the Ward 4 Selma City Council position after the Aug. 26 elections. She claimed Mayor James Perkins Jr., his campaign and Concordia College officials collaborated to have students vote for Perkins and candidates he supported.

She alleged vans with Perkins’ campaign stickers on them carrying Concordia students were allowed to drive up past the 30-foot mark where campaigning is not allowed at the polls.

Both the Perkins campaign and college officials have denied the claim.

Kelly presented a letter from Attorney General Troy King’s office during Monday’s county commission meeting.

In the letter, King’s office declined to represent the registrars.

“The attorney general says, ‘Yes, we agree they’re state employees, but we’re not going to get into it. It’s a local matter,’” Kelly said.

During the county commission’s meeting three weeks ago, commissioners held a lengthy discussion on whether they were obligated to provide legal representation for registrars.

They voted to allow Kelly to file for an extension of time while deciding if he would represent the registrars.

“Certainly they need representation, but we’d be setting precedent, in my opinion, if we started representing what we clearly understand to be state employees,” said Probate Judge Kim Ballard, commission chairman.

By law, Ballard said, the county is only required to provide office space, utilities and clerical help to registrars.

“If they want to hire representation and try to get us to pay for it, I guess we’ll just have to take our chance,” Ballard said.

The county’s other option was to file a claim with its insurance carrier to pay for the costs. The insurance company also declined to provide money for legal representation because the registrars are not insured county employees, Kelly said.

The attorney general’s office also did not recommend that the county represent the defendants, according to Kelly.