by: Mark Winne Updated:
LOVEJOY, Ga.,None - Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson has confirmed to Channel 2 Action News her office is dropping a voter fraud investigation against a local mayor in exchange for his immediate resignation from public office.
A resignation letter from Lovejoy Mayor Joe Murphy indicates he resigned from his office to spend more time with his family and working on his business. However, Lawson told Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne his sudden resignation fulfilled his part of a deal they made not to pursue criminal charges against him and his family.
Lawson said, “This is an appropriate resolution to the voter fraud investigation, taking into consideration both the facts and the law.”
Winne has obtained a letter from the Clayton County District Attorney’s Chief Administrator Dennis Baker to attorney C. Crandle Bray, who represents Murphy.
The letter states, “We had agreed that should Mayor Murphy provide our office with a signed resignation for his immediate leaving or elected office and including an acknowledgement that he would not seek future political office that the investigation of the Lovejoy voter/election fraud case regarding Mayor Murphy and his family would end …”
Lawson told Winne other citizens, aside from the mayor and his relatives, were under investigation.
In September of last year, Winne reported the District Attorney’s Office executed a search warrant at Lovejoy City Hall regarding allegations the mayor and five others, including three of Murphy’s relatives, cast illegal votes in the 2007 city elections.
The investigation alleged the voters lied on their absentee ballot forms about where they lived and questioned whether they lived within the Lovejoy city limits at the time they cast their votes.
Murphy told Winne at that time he did not do anything wrong.
“I’ve always lived in the City of Lovejoy,” said Murphy.
Former city attorney Keith Martin said, “Mayor Murphy has always maintained that no member of his family, or he, ever knowingly violated any law or regulation.”
Winne obtained Murphy’s resignation letter dated Thursday. The letter states, “It is with some reservation that I do hereby tender my resignation as Mayor for City of Lovejoy effective at 5:00pm on Friday, October 14 2011.”
Handwritten beneath his signature reads, “I, Joe Murphy, agree to no longer seek political office in the future.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Bobby Cartwright said Murphy was the only candidate for mayor in the upcoming November city election.
“Joe was my friend and just a wonderful mayor,” said Cartwright.
Cartwright said officials are studying when to hold a special election later, but if the City Council accepts Murphy’s resignation an emergency meeting Monday, Cartwright will serve out the remainder of Murphy’s term until the end of the year per the city charter.
“I’m sure I’m gonna have to call Joe a lot,” Cartwright said.
“It was a very fair deal for the citizens of this county,” said Lawson.
Winne requested an interview with Murphy through the city clerk but the clerk indicated Murphy denied his request.