PRESTONSBURG — There was little progress in the legal wrangling surrounding the Martin mayor’s race in Floyd Circuit Court Friday, following the recusal of Circuit Judge John David Caudill.
Judge Caudill offered several disclosures Friday, stating that he knows the plaintiff Thomasine Robinson very well, that he does not know defendant Sam Howell, and that he in fact votes in the Martin voting district of John Possum.
Motions for dismissal, summary judgement and restraining orders went unheard Friday, after Judge Caudill disclosed his relationships with the affected parties.
After conferring with Sam Howell, Doug Adams, attorney for Howell, said his client had no problem with the judge overseeing the recount of the election, but asked he recuse himself from any future proceedings.
“Robinson is entitled to a recount, but if it goes to court, we would rather have another judge,” Adams said.
Judge Caudill acquiesced to Howell’s concerns and said he would notify Vice Regional Judge Eddie Cole that he was recusing himself from the case, and that it would be up to Cole to appoint another judge.
Howell was scheduled to be sworn in today by Judge Johnny Ray Harris. Robinson’s defense indicated it would be seeking a restraining order to prevent Howell from being sworn in or taking action as mayor. Judge Caudill said he could not do that following his recusal.
In order for Robinson’s defense to acquire a restraining order, they will have to find a Court of Appeals judge to agree to sign the order. As of press time, no order has been submitted.
Robinson filed suit last month in Floyd Circuit Court seeking both a recount and for the election results to be set aside. On Dec. 10, Adams filed a motion to dismiss, stating that the complaint fails to “state a cause or action upon which the court may grant relief.”
Newly-elected city councilman Martin James Reynolds was present in court Friday, and said that he wasn’t prepared for any of this when he signed up to run for city council. Reynolds said the incumbent city council members met informally last week for a swearing in session, of which Reynolds says he was not notified.
Howell said he knew this election would be close, but he never imagined it would be within three votes. “I knew it would be close, ” said Howell. “Ten or fifteen votes, but I never thought it would be five.”
Robinson is seeking a recount in the mayor’s race in which she lost to challenger Howell by a margin of three votes. The initial margin was five votes, but following a recanvass, Robinson picked up two previously uncounted absentee ballots, which brought the total to 161 for Howell to 158 for Robinson.
Robinson’s defense team claims there were several “irregularities” with regard to the election, including improper assistance and a failure on the part of election officials to respond to voter challenges. Her attorneys claim that at least 19 persons voted in the Martin city race who were not residents of the city.
Robinson also says in the complaint that Howell used voter intimidation when he allegedly promised political favors to both a Martin city police officer and tenants of a federal housing project.
Officials with the state Attorney General’s Office said that they received only five calls during the 2012 election in Floyd county. Three of those calls were procedural in nature, said officials. One was related to a polling official, and the final complaint alleged vote buying or selling.