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Judge Plans To Disqualify Metro Council District 6 Challenger

J. Tyler Franklin

A Jefferson Circuit Court judge is expected to declare a Metro Council candidate for District 6 invalid following a lawsuit from his opponent. Council president David James will apparently be the only eligible candidate in the Democratic primary.

James filed suit against Phelps last month, alleging he had falsified details on his filing papers including his address and witness signatures. During a lengthy hearing Thursday, one person, Deandrae Hughes, testified that he had not signed Phelps’ filing form.

In his testimony, Hughes echoed what he recently told WFPL: Phelps had not asked him to sign the form, and that he would not have agreed to sign it regardless. The filing form requires candidates to provide signatures of two witnesses who consider the candidate to be qualified for office.

Near the end of a nearly four-hour hearing Thursday, Judge Charles Cunningham told Phelps the inauthentic signature was enough to disqualify him.

"Your fundamental problem is one of the two people on your nominating petition doesn't appear to have signed it," Cunningham said. "You're going to lose because you haven't been able to present any evidence to suggest you had two qualified signatures on your nominating petition."

Phelps has a five-day window to appeal the decision following issuance of the order, according to state statute.

The judge said he would consider leaving Phelps' name on the ballot for the May 19 primary. Maryellen Allen, co-director of the Jefferson County Board of Elections, testified this would be a less expensive option than redesigning and re-testing the District 6 ballots. She did not provide a cost estimate. If Phelps' name remains on the ballot, election officials would not count votes for him and would post signs in polling places informing voters of this.

But lawyers for James argued Phelps' name should not appear on ballots, which have not yet been printed, citing KRS 118.176, which states that if court finds a candidate invalid "the candidate's name shall be stricken from the written designation of election officers filed with the board of elections."

With Phelps' disqualification, James would be the only Democrat in the primary election. He would face Republican candidate Kristi "Kristina" Smith in the general election in November.

Phelps was also the subject of another recent legal action, filed by a woman who claimed he stalked and harassed her on social media. Earlier this month, a judge granted the woman a protective order against him.

Amina Elahi is LPM's City Editor. Email Amina at aelahi@lpm.org.

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