County attorneys to file objection to Brookhaven annexation petition

DeKalb County Commissioners adopted a resolution objecting to the annexation of more than 600 acres of unincorporated county land into the city of Brookhaven, with county attorneys citing fraud, forgery, inaccurate calculations, and a lack of transparency as reasons why the petition for annexation is not legitimate.

The resolution was adopted at a special called meeting by the commissioners on July 18 after county attorneys presented their findings of an investigation into an application from Brookhaven to annex “on or about June 5.”

“As you know, Brookhaven seeks to approve the largest proposed annexation pursuant to the 60 percent method in the state’s history,” said Deputy County Attorney Matthew Welch. “That annexation would be anticipated to directly affect 4,200 residents living in the area proposed for annexation as well as two commercial districts, two office properties, two industrial properties, and roughly nine places of worship without the jurisdictional and legal authority to do so.”

Under Georgia law, residents can petition for areas to be added to a city through the 60 percent method, which requires 60 percent or more of residing electors giving written consent and 60 percent or more of the owners of property within the area to be annexed (measured by acreage) also giving written consent.

But according to county attorneys, the petition for annexation and documentation from Brookhaven does not meet these requirements for multiple reasons.

When asked by Commissioner Michelle Long-Spears how they arrived at the conclusion that the annexation petition is not, in fact, supported by 60 percent of electors, Welch explained that a list provided by the DeKalb County Department of Registrations and Elections determined there were 2,200 total electors living in the area to be annexed.

“If you consider simply the 1,946 active voters from these 2,200 total electors and apply the 896 consents that are allegedly included with the petition packet, you get a total of just 46 percent which is far shy of the necessary 60 percent statutory threshold,” Welch said.

Welch went on to state that county attorneys had been contacted by representatives of at least seven properties that “expressed concern that their signatures had been forged and that documents had been fraudulently included that they had not consented to,” in relation to the annexation petition.

“By law, homeowners and electors had until July 3 to withdraw their consent and owners for each of those seven properties has signed a withdrawal of consent,” said Welch.

The passage of the resolution means county attorneys will now file an objection to Brookhaven’s annexation plans.

“We do not believe that this petition meets the statutory threshold for consideration by the city of Brookhaven (for a vote) and we believe it should be withdrawn,” said Welch.

The resolution passed unanimously.

On June 30, Brookhaven City Council held a special called meeting at which they approved a resolution calling for DeKalb County’s consent to a referendum vote.

To place the referendum on the ballot in November, both the city of Brookhaven and DeKalb County must approve the referendum question, according to Brookhaven officials.

“If DeKalb County does not authorize the referendum question to be added to ballots, the city of Brookhaven is required to honor the annexation application received from residents and businesses in the annexation area,” stated Brookhaven officials, who could vote on annexation as soon as July 25 – if the county’s objection does not interfere.

On July 7, Brookhaven officials confirmed through a press release that the resolution of the Brookhaven City Council requesting DeKalb County to place the referendum question on the ballot this fall was sent through email and certified mail to DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond and the county commissioners.

“The city council and I would like to invite (CEO Thurmond) and any county commissioners interested to Brookhaven City Hall for a public discussion of the county’s position on a referendum for county residents wanting to annex into any DeKalb municipality,” states the letter, signed by Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst. “The city will be reaching out to your office shortly to determine your availability before the city’s July 25 council meeting.”

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