Oakwood cancels swearing-in as state investigates election

By Caleb Hutchins Assistant News Director
Posted 12:30PM on Friday 29th March 2024 ( 1 month ago )

As the Georgia Secretary of State's Office has opened an investigation into recent discrepancies in an Oakwood City Council special election, the city has canceled the swearing-in ceremony for the winner of the race.

Secretary of State's Office officials confirmed to AccessWDUN Friday morning that an investigation is underway after 200 people who should not have been eligible to vote in the March 12 city council race cast ballots, along with 22 people who should have been eligible to vote in the race who did not have the item included on their ballots.

Rhonda Wood defeated Volley Collins by an 88-vote margin to win the Post 4 seat that was previously held by her husband, Dwight Wood, who passed away in September 2023.

Oakwood City Manager B.R. White said Friday afternoon that the city has canceled Rhonda Wood's swearing-in ceremony that was scheduled for the Tuesday, April 2 city council meeting.

"The City will wait on the Sec.of State’s office to complete its investigation," White said in an email Friday.

Oakwood City Attorney Donnie Hunt had recommended that the city council postpone the swearing-in ceremony.

"The problem Oakwood has is that we didn't run the election, so we don't have any control over anything that's going on. We're just like everybody else, waiting to see what's going to happen," Hunt said Friday morning.

Wood said she's frustrated by the ongoing issue.

"I still am a firm believer, and I'm going to stand my ground, that I won the election," Wood said. "It's frustrating because I've been waiting to start carrying on my husband's legacy and taking care of the citizens of Oakwood, and I don't understand how people are getting these off-the-wall numbers regarding the votes."

Volley Collins said he does not plan to contest the results of the race in court due to cost concerns over legal proceedings.

"It's almost overwhelming. Just like 'Wow, what is going on,'" Collins said Friday. "I don't know what the next step would be."

The Hall County Board of Elections issued a statement Friday morning saying the county has investigated the incident and determined that the discrepancies were not a result of errors of Hall County election staff. The board asked that any further inquiries into the issue be directed to the Georgia Secretary of State's Office.

The full statement by the board is below:

"The Hall County Board of Elections, immediately upon discovering that incorrect ballots had been issued to certain voters in the election for Oakwood City Council, initiated an investigation to determine what went wrong, who was at fault, and how to prevent the issue from ever happening again.  At this time we can confirm that we have determined that the problem did not occur on the county level, and was not the result of the actions or omissions of any employee or agent of Hall County."

The statement follows news Thursday that Hall County's State House Delegation had signed a letter urging transparency in the issue.

House District 30 Representative Derrick McCollum, who spearheaded the letter, told AccessWDUN Thursday he felt that another election should be held due to the discrepancies.

"It just bothers me that they're going to swear [Wood] in without having another election," McCollum said. "I hate to cost the taxpayers money, but I feel like they could just have another election on the May primary date and it wouldn't cost taxpayers any more money."

Rhonda Wood (left) defeated Volley Collins (right) in the March 12 Oakwood City Council special election that is now the focus of a state investigation.

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