JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — City Clerk Allison Tarpley released a hearing decision Sept. 8 confirming that Lee Heard-Tucker is eligible to run for City Council Post 1, absolving Heard-Tucker of claims made against her residency.
Heard-Tucker qualified for the Post 1 seat Aug. 16.
On Aug. 27, Mayor Mike Bodker and Mayor Pro Tem Lenny Zaprowski filed a challenge against Heard-Tucker’s candidacy, alleging that Heard-Tucker had not been a resident of Johns Creek for the requisite 12-month period prior to seeking elected office.
According to the City’s charter, candidates seeking elected office must meet three requirements to qualify: candidates must be over 21 years old, must be registered to vote in Johns Creek and must have lived in the city for 12 months prior to the election. Elected officials are required to remain residents of the city for the duration of their term.
As evidence of their claim, Bodker and Zaprowski cited the address listed on Heard-Tucker’s driver’s license, Fulton County property tax records, voting precinct records and the date her voter registration changed to her Johns Creek address.
On Sept. 2 Tarpley presided over a hearing at City Hall to adjudicate Heard-Tucker’s residency. As with most Georgia cities, the city clerk is Johns Creek's highest-ranking elections official.
Bodker and Zaprowski were represented by lawyer Brad Carver who presented the evidence brought in their claim. Additionally, Carver questioned Heard-Tucker about her political preferences and volunteer positions.
Heard-Tucker and her lawyer David Dreyer presented evidence during the hearing to support her residency.
The driver’s license Heard-Tucker provided in her qualifying documents lists an address on Garden Walk SW in Atlanta with an expiration date in 2025.
Heard-Tucker told the complainants and the city clerk that she had not made updating the address listed on her driver’s license a priority after moving. She said she had been busy with the move, working from home and then helping her daughter through the virtual schooling brought on by the pandemic. At the hearing, she said she had since applied for an updated license which would feature her Johns Creek address.
Fulton County tax records show that Heard-Tucker has not obtained a homestead exemption on her Johns Creek property. Homestead exemptions decrease the overall property tax paid by individual residents by sheltering a portion of the home’s value from its taxable value. The complainants argued that not having a homestead exemption implied Heard-Tucker did not consider her Johns Creek address to be her primary residence.
During the hearing, Heard-Tucker acknowledged that she did not have a homestead exemption. She said she purposely did not apply for one and had also not claimed a homestead exemption on her former property in Atlanta.
Regarding Heard-Tucker’s voter registration, complainants supplied records showing that Heard-Tucker was still registered to vote through her former Atlanta address until June 24, 2021.
In Tarpley’s decision, she notes that the city charter does not specify a time limit by which a candidate must be registered to vote in Johns Creek and that Heard-Tucker was registered at the time of qualification.
Heard-Tucker and Dreyer also supplied a year’s worth of power and gas bills for her Johns Creek residence in addition to doctor’s bills and veterinary bills that they said substantiated Heard-Tucker’s residency claim.
Tarpley pointed to this evidence as a contributing factor in her decision that Heard-Tucker is qualified to seek the Post 1 seat.
“After reviewing all the documents and testimony provided by the parties,” Tarpley said in the decision, “I find the evidence sufficient to demonstrate that Ms. Heard-Tucker’s habitation has been fixed in Johns Creek since June 2020 and that she intends to remain in Johns Creek. Therefore, I have determined that Ms. Heard-Tucker is qualified to seek and hold the public office of Johns Creek City Council Post 1.”
Bodker told the Herald his legal team is looking into Tarpley’s decision and determining whether or not to file an appeal.