Fulton County commissioners on Wednesday urged the elections director to take action against a senior employee accused of a potential conflict of interest.
Ralph Jones Sr., the director of the registration division, was listed as the registered agent for the company RJ Mays Consulting, which did more than $3,600 worth of business for Keisha Lance Bottoms’ mayoral campaign.
In his role for the county, Jones oversees the elections database, mails absentee ballots to voters and performs other duties.
Commissioner Liz Hausmann said said Jones’ involvement with a consulting firm doing business with a candidate “crosses some kind of transparency line.”
“It doesn’t smell good, it doesn’t look good,” Hausmann said. “If we lose the integrity of our elections, we lose everything.
“I think your department has to act on it,” she told Richard Barron, Fulton’s director of registration and elections.
Jones’ son, Ralph Jones Jr., incorporated RJ Mays Consulting. He said in a statement that his father’s role as registered agent “was to be a third-party designee who could accept documents, notices, forms and other mailings” on his behalf.
“He had absolutely no financial stake in my company; and he did not have a role in the daily operations. We merely lived in the same house,” the statement said.
Barron said Jones Jr. lived in an apartment, but used his parents’ address as his permanent address. Jones Sr., Barron said, only learned that he was the company’s registered agent a week ago, when a letter dissolving the company was addressed to him.
The younger Jones was the social media communications manager for Bottoms’ campaign, and now works in the city’s Watershed Department.
Barron said Jones Sr. hadn’t violated his oath or ethical standards.
“He didn’t know anything about the articles of inception,” Barron said. “It seems as though Ralph had no knowledge of this.”
“It’s not enough to avoid an actual impropriety. You need to avoid the appearance,” County Commissioner Marvin Arrington said. “Certainly, it left room for people to question the integrity of the process.”
The board did not specify what action it wants taken.
Commissioners said they want to make sure the county’s elections board — which meets Thursday — knows they were unhappy with the situation. Commissioner Emma Darnell said she shared her colleagues’ “unease.”
“It doesn’t look good and it doesn’t reflect well on us,” Vice Chairman Bob Ellis said.
Staff writer Stephen Deere contributed to this story.
THE STORY SO FAR
Ralph Jones Sr., a high-ranking official in Fulton County’s Department of Registration and Elections, was also the registered agent for RJ Mays Consulting, a business that was paid more than $3,600 by Keisha Lance Bottoms’ mayoral campaign.
Jones’ son, Ralph Jones Jr., said the business was his and his father had no financial stake and no role in its daily operations.
But experts said being the registered agent for the company was a potential conflict of interest. Jones Sr. oversees the county’s master voter list, mails absentee ballots and performs other elections-related duties. Bottoms won the hotly contested mayoral race by 821 votes in a December runoff.
The Secretary of State’s office launched an investigation into potential election irregularities this spring after several people complained they were not able to vote absentee in the runoff election.