Jury sides with Truly in deciding he is the mayor
CANTON — A jury ruled Nov. 10 that even though his name was not properly placed on the ballot, incumbent Democrat William Truly was elected mayor in the June 8 general election and can remain in office.
“The jury found that Truly was illegally on the ballot, but the will of the people was that Truly won,” said Chip Matthews, the Republican challenger who lost to Truly 739 to 498 in the general election. “So that’s where we’re at now, and that’s an appealable call. So we will be appealing because you can’t have legal ballots if you weren’t legally on the ballot.”
Matthews filed a challenge to the June 8 general election results in Madison County Circuit Court on June 28, questioning the process by which Truly was placed on the ballots for the April 6 Democratic Party municipal primary.
The trial began Monday, Nov. 8, and lasted until Wednesday, Nov. 10.
Truly’s attorney Edward Blackmon Jr. said the jury cut through the confusion of the case and determined that two candidates were on the general election ballot for Mayor of Canton, and Truly prevailed.
“You can make an issue out of it if you want to, a technical issue,” Blackmon said after the verdict. “...Dr. Truly won because he got the majority of the votes. They waded through all the smoke, all the smokescreen.”
Matthews’ case argued that Truly was not qualified to be on Canton’s general election ballot after a judge’s ruling in an ongoing legal battle between two Canton Democratic Municipal Executive Committees over the process by which Democratic Party municipal candidates were placed on the April 8 Canton primary ballots.
One of the Democratic Party committees is headed up by elected members John Scanlan and Marion Freeman Sr. and claims to be the only “legitimate Canton Democratic Municipal Executive Committee.”
The other Canton Democratic Municipal Executive Committee was formed by Truly’s wife, Natwassie Truly, who was also elected to be a committee member, and others she appointed after she said members of the other elected committee had failed to do their jobs.
Matthews contended that Truly’s candidacy was invalid because of a June 15 ruling by special judge Jeff Weill Sr. who was appointed to hear motions from three Canton Democrat alderman candidates who lost their primary bids and filed suits against the Canton Democratic Municipal Executive Committee headed up by Natwassie Truly over the way candidates were placed on the ballots.
In the June 15 ruling, Weill said the hiring of the Blackmon & Blackmon law firm by the Canton Democratic Municipal Executive Committee headed up by Natwassie Truly was not valid. Therefore, the process by which Democratic candidates were placed on the ballots by Truly’s Canton Democratic Municipal Executive Committee was not valid.
Weill ordered redos on those three aldermen elections and those were held last month with the three incumbent Democrats regaining their seats.
Because of the negation of the aldermen races, Matthews argued that Truly should not have been on the primary ballots, either. Truly did not have a primary challenger. Despite the process by which Truly was placed on the ballots, the jury said the will of the people was to elect Truly as Canton Mayor.
Blackmon said in the end, Truly was placed on the primary ballot by the judge’s order and that neither Truly nor Matthews had primary challengers, both were on the general election ballots and Truly got the majority of the votes.
Matthews said he plans to appeal the jury’s decision.
“Everybody take a breather,” Matthews said in a video message posted to his Facebook page after Wednesday’s verdict. “We’ll probably have more news by Monday or Tuesday next week.”
Blackmon said it is Matthews’ right to appeal the verdict.
“He has a right to appeal,” Blackmon said. “The courts are open to our citizens, but … I’m positive that his appeal will fail just as his court challenge failed, and just like he failed at the polls.”