Candidate may be out of city race

Published 5:00 am Monday, April 23, 2001

A felony forgery conviction from 1973 has jeopardized themayoral candidacy of the Rev. Jerry S. Durr, who currently isineligible to seek elected office.

Durr, who was 19 at the time of the Pike County incident, isseeking a pardon from Gov. Ronnie Musgrove. Durr said he hopes tomeet with the governor early next week regarding the situation.

“I’m going to make up my mind between now and next week,” Durrsaid late Thursday about his future as a candidate. “I’m stilllooking at some options.”

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According to Pike County court records, Durr and anotherdefendant pleaded guilty to uttering forgery charges related to twochecks, one for $100 and another for $40, written in November 1972.Durr received a five-year sentence which was suspended for fiveyears probation.

Even if a pardon is granted, which could take some time toprocure because of the process involved, state election officialsindicated it would be too late to allow Durr to remain in themayor’s race.

Leslie Scott, assistant secretary of state for elections, saidDurr’s prior conviction would not allow him to meet all thequalifications to run for elected office.

“It’s our opinion those qualifications would have to exist atthe time he qualified,” Scott said.

In May 1992, through a petition to the state legislature, Durrhad his right to vote restored, according to his voter registrationapplication. Thursday, he indicated he thought that was sufficientto allow him to run for elected office.

“It’s something I thought was already taken care of,” Durr said.”Evidently, it wasn’t.”

Scott said Section 44 of state constitution deals with suffrageand its impact on candidate qualifications.

“It wouldn’t take away his conviction,” Scott said.

Durr and City Attorney Joe Fernald said they met earlier thisweek with James Tillman, the city’s Democratic Executive Committeechairman, after someone slid a copy of a court record under thecity attorney’s door. Durr and Fernald said they did not know whosupplied the record.

The three conferred with officials in the Attorney General’s andSecretary of State’s offices. Fernald said Mayor Bill Godbold andCity Clerk Iris Rudman, as the highest-ranking city officials, werealso notified of the situation.

If allowed to run, Durr would face the incumbent Godbold,Alderman-at-large Henry Newman and Roger Ruffin Osborne in theparty primary.

City ballots for the primary are already printed. Fernald saidthe other three candidates could challenge the election if onecandidate is ruled ineligible.

“That changes everything,” Fernald said.

Fernald said Durr’s situation is a party matter, although he hastried to provide some assistance on the issue.

“My concern has been to get this in a posture to have a fairelection for everybody, including him,” Fernald said.

Durr, founder of Brookhaven Outreach Ministries, said he hadfaith and was hopeful he would receive the pardon. He said theincident happened 28 years ago and serves as a reminder to him thatpeople should make Godly decisions early in life.

“I thank God for coming into my life and saving me,” Durr said,adding that he confident something good will come from the currentsituation.