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Board: Rick Steiner Qualified to Run for School Board

While Steiner owes back taxes to the IRS, that does not disqualify him from seeking a 3rd term on the Cherokee school board.

Credit: Patch
Credit: Patch
A challenge to whether incumbent Cherokee County School Board member Rick Steiner is qualified to hold public office has been rejected by the Cherokee County Board of Elections.

The board unanimously voted to reject a complaint filed by Acworth resident Dean Sheridan, who charged Steiner was disqualified to hold the seat he's held for more than eight years because he owed back taxes to the Internal Revenue Service.

Steiner was flanked by Rome-based tax attorney Joe Marion, who represented the school board member during the hearing. Sheridan was accompanied by fellow resident Harry Abrams. 

The called meeting was held at the Stone Elections Building in downtown Canton.

The code Sheridan cites in his complaint — 21-2-28 — does not exist, which makes the basis of the challenge Moot, Marion said. 

"You can't violate something that doesn't exist," he said. Marion didn't contend Stiener owned back taxes, and blamed the board member's predicament on "shoddy tax preparing." 

Steiner is accused of having more than $19,000 in federal tax liens and owing more than $18,000 to the state of Georgia. 

Marion noted his client owed the money after the IRS audited him, and back taxes that arise in that nature are not public funds. There was no court case or "tax adjudication," which Marion said would make Steiner unqualified. 

Sheridan also accused Steiner of violating "moral turpitude" because the candidate knew he owed the money when he qualified to run for a second term in 2010. To add fuel his claim, Sheridan produced what he claimed were records of Steiner being hit with tax liens for property he allegedly owned in Pickens and Forsyth counties.

The board had questions as to where Sheridan received the documents, which were not dated. Sheridan told the board he used an online public records search tool to find the alleged liens, but did not give a specific name. 

Sheridan also compared Steiner's situation to the case of former Cherokee County Magistrate Court Judge Charles Robertson.

In 2004, Roberson was ruled ineligible to hold office because he falsely swore he'd never been convicted of a felony. The Georgia Supreme Court ruled Robertson had to be removed from office because he was found guilty of selling stolen military property during the 1970s. He also pleaded guilty to possessing methamphetamine. 

Steiner's attorney rejected the analogy, citing there was a big difference between being convicted of a felony and having to pay the IRS back taxes. 

After the board's ruling, Sheridan declined to comment on the decision and quickly left the facility with Abrams.

Elections Board member Helmut Baxter was satisfied with proof of Steiner's payment plan he arranged with the IRS.

"If you're under a payment plan, then you are good and he's under a payment plan," he added. 

Steiner said he's been paying about $215 per month to the IRS for the back taxes, and his attorney noted the entire debt should be paid off in about two years. He also said he does not own property in Pickens or Forsyth counties, rebutting Sheridan's claims. 

The school board member said he was "happy" the board ruled he way it did so now he can continue his campaign and subsequently return to the District 4 seat.

"I was confident from the beginning, but I'm just happy...I get a chance to go back and do my re-election (bid)," he said. "Hopefully I can get re-elected, get (back) on the board, go back and take care of the kids like I have for the last nine years."

Another candidate — Cherokee Commission District 4 candidate Larry Singleton — has also had his candidacy challenged for owing taxes. The board will review that challenge on Friday, April 4 at 12:30 p.m. at the elections office. 

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