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Election officials say Fuller's candidacy request is too late

February 02, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Hagerstown's Board of Elections Supervisors rejected Merrill "E.J." Fuller's request to be a City Council candidate in the next election despite missing the filing deadline.

There was "no evidence offered to excuse such late filing," the board said in a written decision it released Tuesday, one day after hearing Fuller's appeal.

Fuller and his campaign manager, the Rev. LeRoy J. Guillory, attended Tuesday's Hagerstown City Council meeting. Guillory said following the meeting that Fuller would issue a statement after he reads the decision.

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William Nairn, an attorney representing the Board of Elections Supervisors, said he told Fuller of the decision by phone Tuesday afternoon and agreed to mail Fuller a copy of the decision.

Fuller could appeal the board's decision, either through Washington County Circuit Court or to the mayor and City Council, Nairn said.

At Monday's hearing, Fuller testified that he filed the necessary paperwork with the Washington County Board of Elections on Jan. 24, three days after the deadline.

He and Guillory testified that Fuller was confused because someone at the Board of Elections told him the wrong date: Feb. 7.

Election calendar

However, Fuller acknowledged at the hearing that he received an election calendar showing the filing deadline as Jan. 21.

The Board of Elections Supervisors' decision indicates that the Washington County Board of Elections apparently faxed Fuller the calendar, with other information, on Dec. 6.

According to testimony at the hearing, Fuller filed a certificate of candidacy - the first step in running for a city office - at Hagerstown City Hall on Nov. 29.

He went to the Washington County Board of Elections four times, but never filed a statement of organization, the final step in becoming an official candidate, the written decision says.

According to hearing testimony and the written decision, on the fourth and final visit, Fuller didn't have a treasurer appointed for his campaign, which is required by Maryland law. He was told he couldn't name himself as a treasurer.

Fuller did not return to the Board of Elections until Jan. 24.

Election officials at the hearing said they could not recall telling Fuller about the Feb. 7 deadline.

Dorothy Kaetzel, the county's election director, said Feb. 7 is the deadline for candidates not registered in a party. But even those candidates had a Jan. 21 deadline to file a declaration of intent to run, she said.

Fuller planned to run as a Republican.

Even if there were a discrepancy in the deadline, Fuller had a calendar to check, the three-member Board of Elections Supervisors said in its decision.

Without Fuller, there are 15 official City Council candidates and five official mayoral candidates.

The primary election is March 8. The general election is May 17.

The mayor's seat and all five council seats are up for election.

Staff writer Brian Shappell contributed to this story.

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