DeKalb County confident election results will stand, emails to LaVista Hills revealed

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt November 7, 2015
DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.

DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.

This story has been updated. 

DeKalb County elections officials are confident that an investigation into the Nov. 3 LaVista Hills referendum will show there was no tampering with the result.

Decaturish has also obtained the email exchange between a political consultant for LaVista Hills and an election official questioning the result of Tuesday’s referendum. The emails were forwarded to us by Mary Kay Woodworth with the LaVista Hills Alliance.

The county certified the election results on Friday, one day after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation visited the office and confiscated equipment as part of an investigation into the vote. The investigation was ordered by the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. Under state law, if there’s evidence of tampering that could’ve changed the outcome, the election would be invalidated. County Commissioner Nancy Jester is already calling for a new election.

Leonard Piazza, the second-highest ranking official at DeKalb Voter Registration and Elections Office, has been placed on administrative leave. He alleges it’s because he raised questions about the integrity of the Nov. 3 LaVista Hills referendum, which was defeated by 136 votes. His boss, Maxine Daniels, said he was placed on leave due to an unrelated personnel issue.

The county released a statement Friday saying the GBI investigation will show no wrongdoing.

“The DeKalb County Board of Registration and Elections’ sole purpose is to ensure the integrity of all elections in accordance with Georgia election code,” the county’s press release says. “We recognize the seriousness of the allegations made and are cooperating fully with the Secretary of State’s office as they investigate the claims made. We remain convinced that once the investigation is complete, the veracity of the November 2015 elections will be confirmed. Until the Secretary of State completes his investigation we have no further comment on this issue.”

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that there was allegedly a memory card that wasn’t secured at the Briarlake Elementary precinct. To read that story, click here. While split precincts led to some confusion on Tuesday’s vote, Briarlake was not one of them. Precinct-by-precinct results of the referendum show that Briarlake precinct was split almost down the middle, with 378 “Yes” votes to 313 “No” votes.

In an email to LaVista Hills political consultant Steve Schultz, Piazza alleged that he’d been placed on leave as retaliation for questioning the outcome of the election. “Upon questioning the integrity of the LaVista Hills Incorporation Ballot Question earlier today, I was dismissed from work and subsequently placed on paid administrative leave,” Piazza wrote.

Several readers have asked about the context of that email exchange. The emails Decaturish received show that Schultz was contacting Piazza about routine election matters, like making sure the organization’s filings were put in the right place, asking if they could watch the counting of ballots on election night and asking whether all the absentee ballots had been counted.

This is the full exchange between Piazza and Schultz:

From: Steve Schultz
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2015 12:54 PM
To: Piazza, Leonard
Subject: filing


It looks like the LaVista Hills Alliance filing was not put in the right area…there it was put under something for Mary Kay Woodworth

Can you check to see if there is a glitch someplace

Steve Schultz

On Oct 27, 2015 2:58 PM, “Piazza, Leonard” wrote:

Good afternoon Steve,

Been on and off the phone this afternoon with Mary Kay and this has been resolved, by and large.

We will however need a copy of your original RO (Committee Registration) form.

Thank you,


From: Steve Schultz 
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2015 3:00 PM
To: Piazza, Leonard
Subject: Re: filing

Thank you Leonard

I’ll get right on your request. If MK doesn’t have it I will get a copy from the state for you.

On Tue, Oct 27, 2015 at 3:00 PM, Piazza, Leonard wrote:

Super, thanks!

From: Steve Schultz
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2015 5:51 PM
To: Piazza, Leonard
Subject: Re: filing


Who would I talk to about getting a pass to watch the counting of the ballots election night?

On Fri, Oct 30, 2015 at 3:27 PM, Piazza, Leonard wrote:

Hi Steve,

I’m putting you over to Mary Frances Weeks (she’s copied) … she’ll give a run down on the rules.


Let me know if I can help with anything else,


On Nov 4, 2015, at 1:48 PM, Steve Schultz wrote:

It is my understanding that a large number of absentee ballots were not counted because of irregularities …Is this true? and if so how many? and can I get a list of these folks?

Thank you so much for your continued hard work

From: “Leonard Piazza” (Sent from personal email address)
Date: Nov 4, 2015 6:03 PM
Subject: Re: filing
To: “Steve Schultz”

Steve… Upon questioning the integrity of the LaVista Hills Incorporation Ballot Question earlier today, I was dismissed from work and subsequently placed on paid administrative leave. As such, I am unable to answer your questions at this time.

Sent from my iPhone

From: “Steve Schultz” 
Date: Nov 4, 2015 6:06 PM
Subject: Fwd: Re: filing
To: “Mary Kay Woodworth”, “Kevin Levitas”, “Gabriel Sterling”, “John Garst”


Editor’s note: Several of you have asked for more information regarding emails between Schultz and the Elections Division. Obtaining additional emails requires a records request which takes time to process. The election results are also part of an active investigation. Decaturish has requested to see any additional emails, but there’s no guarantee we’ll receive them before the investigation has concluded. 

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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  • Jamgriot

    Dan, have you verified whether or not you have received the complete records of email sent between Schultz and Piazza? Based on the last email one would assume that Schultz provided this list.

    • I only received the exchange that preceded Piazza saying he’s been placed on administrative leave. Any other emails would require a formal records request. I’ve held off filing one because they take three business days for a response, are costly and this investigation could conclude before I receive them. I got the impression from Sec. of State’s Office that this investigation is going to be completed on a faster timeline than others, given the seriousness of the allegations. I would add that I don’t find it particularly unusual that these two groups were emailing. I mean, I exchanged a lot of emails with the Elections Division too in preparation for covering this. I think both sides have been in contact with the Elections Division, either through email or otherwise.

      • Jamgriot

        Piazza has become or should be a party of interest in this investigation. Therefore, anything short of an open records request will not satisfactorily answer the questions being asked about the email exchanges.

        • See the editor’s note. I’ve asked for the emails. I have no idea if I’ll get them before this investigation has concluded.

  • Samb

    Election official responding to concerned citizen. Not much to see there.

  • Tom Doolittle

    Just food for thought. There are nine split precincts out of 24 total. All are at the city boundaries. Seems by definition, due to the relationship between the boundaries of precincts and the “neighborhoods-of-interest”, that the LVH map hasn’t captured a “community of interest”.
    I would foresee split precincts at the city boundaries continuing to be a problem in city elections and future local referendum questions.

    • Jamgriot

      One could say that they fabricated a “community of interest” which ultimately derailed the effort. Many along the common boundary with Tucker were incensed, as homes were drawn into cities that they historically didn’t identify with.

  • Mike

    I have yet to have a true understanding of this city mania? My feelings are hurt ,so I am leaving? I do not get what I want, so I am leaving? I lost an election , so the other side MUST have cheated? I mean no one would vote against city hood, right? Well they did vote against city hood and in sufficient numbers to can the idea. I found comments by Nancy Jester to be beyond ironic in the AJC. We need a revote? Hey the one vote was enough, Nancy!!!!

  • Ernest

    Well, of course they’re confident — they get to do pretty much anything they want to on everything else, why not this? A few votes here, a few votes there, and you got yourself an outcome to love. The audacity of the GBI and the Secretary of State to question their handling of this effort for a little bit of self-control! Voting rights don’t apply to people in North DeKalb, aka county gov’t’s honey pot. Get a grip, people.

    • MAC

      We should at least wait for the GBI and Sec. of State’s report before drawing any conclusions on way or the other. Unless last week’s vote was an election conspiracy the scale of a third-world country, the near 50%/50% outcome seems to have reflected the bipolar tenor of that entire cityhood campaign–the numbers were probably pretty accurate. Brookhaven skated by with only 55% in 2012 without nearly as much pushback and contention. LVH could have gone either way. Finally, what about Tucker? If there’s some sinister county-wide conspiracy at play to derail cityhood success in DeKalb, why not target Tucker too? Why no reports of irregularities there? Why let Tucker cityhood success slip by, and not weakly, but handily at 74%?

      • Ernest

        It may be because all the animosity and fervor to kill the referendum was focused on LVH, where the county gets the most money and does the least in return. Tucker was a much smaller area and did not shift as much service to the local level, so the powers that be treated that referendum with indifference. Left alone, it cruised to a decisive win. DeKalb politicos put all their effort into killing LVH, as did their noisy front group. The heavy hand of the county prevailed again, unless the GBI and Secty State find otherwise.

        • MAC

          I hear you, but I don’t quite get you. One, if the results stand and LVH is truly six feet under, likely annexations (from Brookhaven, Tucker and possibly Atlanta) will take from the county much of what LVH would have taken anyway (on the commercial front). Blood loss by a thousand small cuts is the same as a loss by one violent blow. Wouldn’t the politico conspirators know this? Two, the “Tucker’s much smaller area” argument makes no sense either. Tucker’s population is greater than Decatur, Chamblee, Doraville, and Lithonia. Tucker falls right behind Dunwoody and Brookhaven in population. Third, though Tucker enters cityhood not shifting as much service to the local level, nothing precludes or prevents its citizens from deciding to take over more services from the county at some point down the line. Still a threat to those DeKalb politico conspirators, right? Your conspiracy makes little sense…

  • CMR

    Dekalb County election officials were so certain that they certified the election results on Friday…. and then re certified them on Monday after they discovered they did not properly include provisional ballots….. Classic Dekalb

    • MAC

      Sloppy as all get out, no doubt, which supports the notion that messy handiwork is at play in the results controversy rather than some grand and fraudulent countywide conspiracy. People decry the county’s incompetence while simultaneously crediting a brilliant coordination required to heist an election. The two things don’t align. Ironically, the recertification widens “no” over “yes” by three votes.

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