Third party to review Murry petitions for sheriff

An independent third party will review the petitions filed by would-be sheriff’s candidate James Murry to determine if he should be placed on the ballot for the November general election.

That decision came Friday morning during a court hearing as Murry sought to have Circuit Judge Rob Wyatt Jr. order Jefferson County Clerk Patricia Royal Johnson to certify the petitions she rejected during the February filing period.

Jefferson County Attorney Jackie Harris and attorney Tona DeMers —who was filling in for attorney Luther Sutter, who had been hired to represent Murry — reached agreement on the idea of an independent review of the petitions during a recess that was called shortly after Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter testified.

That review will take place between Aug. 21 and Aug. 25 and will involve a person acceptable to both sides. Both Murry and Johnson will be allowed to have representatives present during the review.

Murry had contended that Johnson rejected a number of signatures on the petitions he filed as an independent candidate and complained to Hunter, who agreed to look at the petitions.

Hunter said he asked a person in his office to look at the petitions and compare them to the Secretary of State’s website of registered voter information.

When he testified, Murry said he needed the signatures of 561 registered voters to get on the ballot and, according to Hunter’s count, Murry had “six extra signatures”over what was needed.

“I came to the conclusion that the complaint had merit and there was a basis for further investigation,” Hunter said.

Asked by Harris what he looked at, Hunter said his office examined a copy of the petitions that Murry had given him and agreed that he had not examined the original petitions that were on file at the clerk’s office.

The original complaint included the Jefferson County Board of Election Commissioners but Wyatt announced before the hearing began that he had granted a motion to remove them because they had nothing to do with the certification of candidates and only place on the ballot candidates that were certified by the clerk’s office.

Murry is trying to challenge incumbent Sheriff Gerald Robinson, who defeated Roger McLemore during the May Democratic primary.

Earlier this year, he filed an ethics complaint against Robinson for using a county office to distribute tickets to a fundraiser and Robinson and his attorney Greg Robinson (no relation) agreed to a settlement of that case with the sheriff receiving a public letter of reprimand and a fine.