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June 6--  The eligibility of a Montgomery County commissioner to hold office and to seek re-election is being challenged.

Uvalda Commissioner John Carpenter has federal and state tax liens which have been in place on taxes owed as far back as 1993.

{mosimage}His challenger in the July 31st Democrat Primary, Sharon Strickland, filed a challenge to his eligibility Wednesday with county Election Supervisor Ruby Nell Sanders.

"I'm filing a challenge to Mr. John Carpenter for some state and federal liens he has against him.  I read the Constitution and it looks to me like if you owe any debts you're not eligible to run for election in this county," Strickland said.

The Georgia Constitution prohibits anyone who has defaulted on their taxes to run for office.  According to Strickland, county records show that Carpenter has federal tax liens amounting to $281,673.95 and state liens totaling $55,497.10 and that he owed taxes in 2008 when he took the oath of office.

The Constitution contains a provision that a candidate's ineligibility may be removed if the back taxes are paid or if a payment plan is in place.

{mosimage}Carpenter says he's expecting a settlement on his taxes "at any date."

"I'd just like to say I appreciate the opportunity to serve and this was a problem four years ago and nobody challenged it.  I don't see where my personal business has anything to do with how I conduct business for the county," he said.

Strickland is asking the Election Supervisor to disqualify Carpenter.  Sanders is required by law to hold a hearing on the challenge and says she plans to do so after consulting with county attorney Mackey Bryant.

"I've never had to do this before and I want to make sure it's done right," Sanders said.