After appeal fails, Thomas out of the race

Published 11:57 pm Friday, May 26, 2017

Jennifer Thomas is no longer a candidate for mayor.

Circuit Judge Isadore Patrick Friday denied Thomas’ appeal of a Vicksburg Municipal Election Commission decision disqualifying her as a candidate because she did not meet the residency requirements to qualify as a candidate for mayor. It came after an almost three-hour hearing in Warren County Circuit Court.

Patrick ruled Thomas “has failed to establish through sufficient proof that the decision of the VMEC to disqualify her as a candidate was incorrect.”

“I will respect the judge’s decision, but I think in consideration of our evidence, I think we proved my case,” Thomas said after hearing the decision. “The current mayor before me proved his case and (Alex) Monsour (a candidate for South Ward alderman) proved his case. I think my attorney did a great job in proving his case. I think I should be on the ballot.

“But I believe they (the commission) have more so done an injustice to the people of Vicksburg than to myself, because they have taken me off the ballot, who was a viable candidate for this election who would have done great things for Vicksburg.”

The Vicksburg Election Commission May 12 ruled Thomas, who was running as an independent candidate for mayor, did not meet the residence requirements to qualify as a candidate for the general election.

The decision came after a hearing on a petition filed by the Vicksburg Democratic Executive Committee claiming Thomas was ineligible to run because she lived in the county.

The commission ruled she was unable to show sufficient proof she lived in the city.

During the May 11 hearing, executive committee members said Thomas had homes at 120 Monteray Drive and 5060 Oakridge Road. They said Thomas’ daughter attended Redwood Elementary, which is in the northern part of the county, and Thomas had changed her voter registration to an address at 200 Georgann Drive Apt. B-2, and her nominating petition had the Georgann Drive address in the city.

The committee members also said Thomas’ driver’s license and car tag had the Monteray Drive address.

Friday, Toni Gilman, Thomas’ roommate, testified Thomas lived in the apartment at 200 Georgann Drive, but said all the utilities were in her name and Thomas paid $400 a month to help cover rent and utility bills.

Neither Gilman nor Thomas, however, were able to produce any receipts showing Thomas had paid the money.

Thomas told the court she paid the money in cash.

Gilman also said all the furniture in the apartment was hers except for a bed Thomas brought.

Later, Election Commission chairman Clyde Redmon said he talked to the owner of the complex who told him Thomas did not live there, and also talked with neighbors who said they seldom saw Thomas at the complex.

Thomas said she still owned the homes at 120 Montarey Drive and 5060 Oakridge Road, and both were furnished. She said she moved out of the house on Monteray Drive and moved in with Gilman because the county increased her property taxes on the property, which increased her mortgage note to about $800 a month or more, and she was trying to save money.

She said, however, she was remodeling the home to rent out. She also said she would stay periodically at the Monteray Drive house and was paying a mortgage and utility bills for it.

When questioned by Lane Campbell, the Election Commission’s attorney about her homestead exemption on the Monteray Drive House, Thomas said she went to the assessor’s office Thursday to have it removed.

Thomas said she went to the assessor’s office in February to have the exemption removed, adding she thought at that time it had been taken off.

But Karen Brown, an employee of the assessor’s office, said she contacted Thomas through Thomas’ sister that she needed to come back to fill out some more documentation before the exemption could be removed.

“She told me, ‘I’ll be there, if not later today, then tomorrow,’ she never showed up,” Brown said.

Thomas said she was unable to go take care of the problem because she was in school at Mississippi College and was involved with classes. She found out the homestead exemption was not removed when she went to the assessor’s office Thursday, she said.

“I thought it had been done,” she said. “I thought she (Brown) wanted me to come in and sign something for her personal records.”

Patrick cited the lack of proof that Thomas helped Gilman with her bills, Redmon’s testimony about his conversation with the apartment owner and the neighbors, and her failure to correct the problem with her homestead exemption and she “did not meet the burden of proof that once she moved from her home in the county to the apartment in the city she did so to abandon said home (on Monteray) without intent to return to live there,” in his reasons for the decision.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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