Criminal activity alleged in LaVista Hills vote

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt November 5, 2015
Lavista Hills supporters sport I'm a Georgia Voter stickers during the viewing party at Sprig on Tuesday. Photo: Jonathan Phillips

Lavista Hills supporters sport I’m a Georgia Voter stickers during the viewing party at Sprig on Tuesday.
Photo: Jonathan Phillips

This story has been updated. 

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is probing irregularities in the LaVista Hills cityhood vote, Decaturish has learned.

Officials from the GBI and Kennesaw State University visited the DeKalb Voter Registration and Elections Office Thursday afternoon, Nov. 5, according to Director Maxine Daniels. The Secretary of State’s Office has confirmed it asked the GBI to look into the matter.

In a statement, Secretary of State Brian Kemp said, “I take any allegation of elections fraud seriously. Our office has opened an official investigation of possible criminal activity during the Nov. 3 elections in DeKalb County. Given the serious nature of these allegation, I have asked the center for elections at Kennesaw State University and the GBI to assist in this investigation. I asked the GBI to assist due to an alleged theft of secured memory cards and fraud allegations. Once completed, the investigation will be presented to the State Elections Board.”

Daniels said there was a complaint about irregularities, but she did not know the nature of the complaint.

“The GBI took our materials,” Daniels said. “They took our machine and a server.”

WSB-TV first reported that the “second-in-command” of the office, Leonard Piazza, was placed on administrative leave after he complained about irregularities. Prior to the WSB story’s publication, Decaturish asked Daniels if any employees had been placed on administrative leave related to the election. She said at the time no employees had been placed on leave.

When we followed up with Daniels to ask why WSB-TV was reporting someone had in fact been placed on administrative leave, Daniels said she had answered truthfully. She said Piazza has been placed on administrative leave for a personnel issue unrelated to the election.

“He was not put on administrative leave for something that happened on Election Day,” Daniels said. “I’m not allowed to say why he was put on administrative leave. It has to do with his reaction to some things that happened in the office.”

Decaturish received a copy of a Nov. 4 email from Piazza to LaVista Hills political consultant Steve Schultz.

“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. “As such, I am unable to answer your questions at this time.”

Attempts to reach Piazza have been unsuccessful.

The news about the criminal investigation follows an earlier report from a supporter of LaVista Hills cityhood who said the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office has opened an inquiry into the results of the Nov. 3 election.

The LaVista Hills proposal lost by 136 votes. There were some problems with voting in split precincts reported on Nov. 3. According to 11 Alive, some voters were accidentally excluded from voting on LaVista Hills – about 45 voters – but were later added to the list of people who could vote for or against the new city.

LaVista Hills Alliance Chairperson Mary Kay Woodworth said earlier today, Nov. 5, it was her understanding that the Secretary of State was looking into the election.

“All I know is that Secretary of State has opened inquiry,” Woodworth said. “(State) Sen. (Fran) Millar has asked for any information from residents who had problems with voting. I think that a legislator may have to ask for a recount, since it’s a ballot question, not a candidate.”

After hearing that the inquiry went much deeper than that, Woodworth said she was troubled by the allegations.

“It’s like the Twilight Zone,” Woodworth said. “I would say it’s unbelievable, but this is DeKalb County so it’s not unbelievable. That’s not a very good reaction. I certainly hope that this is not true, because this to me is one of the fundamental rights of citizens of this county, to be able to vote and have an honest election. If there was indeed any kind of fraudulent behavior, it is absolutely disgusting.”

Marjorie Snook, president of DeKalb Strong, the main group opposed to cityhood, said she’d raised concerns about voting irregularities on Election Day.

“If there are allegations of irregularities in the election, then we strongly support a full investigation by the GBI,” she said. “I was on the phone all Tuesday morning when we first got reports from people that they wanted to vote and were being told they couldn’t. I was on the phone with Maxine Daniels and tried to alert the Elections Division that there were people missing from the voter rolls. We had looked through the voter rolls before the election. We were concerned there would be mistakes in this election. We had gone through the list of addresses that were going to be able to vote on this, and told people about addresses we found. We tried very hard to avoid there being this kind of confusion in the election.”

She said she’d heard from news reports about criminal allegations, but didn’t know any specifics.

“The only real detail that I heard was an unsecured memory card that was found somewhere, and I take that dead seriously,” Snook said. “The integrity of elections is more important than winning or losing elections. I was glad to hear that the GBI is going to look into it.”

In a story that ran on Nov. 4, LaVista Hills YES president Allen Venet said it was his understanding that only the governor, lieutenant governor or speaker of the house can request a recount on a referendum.

Daniels said she has not received a request for a recount, but added that can’t be done until the election results are certified on Nov. 6.

Millar, R-40, told Decaturish that he has received reports of voting problems but has directed callers to the Secretary of State’s Office. He said he has not spoken with the Secretary of State’s Office about the issue.

“You can ask for a recount. I think you’d have to have a good reason to do it other than the fact you didn’t like the outcome,” Millar said.

Millar sounded doubtful that a recount would change the outcome of Tuesday’s election.

He said, “I know there was some ballot issue at one precinct, but is it going to be more than 136 votes?”

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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  • mike

    UH oh!! LaVista Hills is non existent…. Wow, did not see that coming? But it is surely refreshing that the people have spoken!! Now can we move on? Next item is to silence the people who see problems in DeKalb as a reason to dismantle it with myriad cities….. Move on!! Nothing to see here

    • Graybeard

      boy will there be egg on your face when it’s shown to be nothing or caused by the Cityhood groups…

      • Leah

        DeKalbgate. This county is corrupt. It will say corrupt as long as we the people do not do anything. March!

  • JD4FSU

    Nice try Mike. Regardless of the election purpose or outcome, the fundamental right to vote in a free and fair election is the most basic civil right. There’s plenty to see here and I expect this topic is far from resolved. For the sake of Dekalb, let’s hope the fraud allegations are false.

  • Follow The Money

    Wow! I knew the cockroaches would be back trying to shove this city down our throats again but was not expecting it this fast. If you can’t win make up some crap to get the vote thrown out. It’s the Lavista Hills version of Bush/Gore. Should have known they were up to something when a certain LVH board member still had his signs up two days later.

    • Mike

      That’s the same crappy comments and attitude that was posted throughout. Post under your real name and don’t be a jerk.

      And I am uppercase Mike to my lowercase counterpart mike below.

  • Ty Grady

    Why is the elections official who stole the memory card emailing with Steve Schultz of LaVista Hills Alliance?

    • Follow The Money

      Where did you see or hear that? Pretty strong charge. Have proof?

      • Marjorie Snook

        It’s in the story. Decaturish got a copy of the email.

        • Follow The Money

          Just re read and saw that. Makes me wonder what had steve emailed him about to begin with? How long had they been exchanging emails and about what? Can you those emails be accessed through open records request? Perhaps someone needs to look into what their relationship was prior to election.

          • Ty Grady

            WSB reporting this guy was fired in Pennsylvania for alleging the same thing then filed a fat lawsuit.

          • Concerned Citizen

            Wrong. WSB is not reporting he was fired “for alleging the same thing.” Details matter, TY.

          • Concerned Citizen

            From the local Pennsylvania paper:

            Piazza says he sued the county and its manager, Robert Lawton, after he was fired for requesting campaign finance information from then-county controller Walter L. Griffith Jr., with whom Lawton had “politically affiliated himself.”

            The county maintains Piazza was fired for “lying about targeting a private citizen” after Griffith told county officials about the requests.

            Hardly “the same thing.”

          • Follow The Money

            Someone still needs to answer to me why was this guy trading emails with Shultz from LVH? Who initiated it and what was the nature of the conversation? Something is starting to seem fishy and I am not sure its Dekalb County this time.

        • CMR

          And you are quoted as having been on the phone with Maxine Daniels.

  • Samb

    Briarlake Elementary voted to incorporate by a 65-vote margin (378-313). Does anyone who voted at Briarlake recall the number of voting machines there? Thinking about it, even if one machine was uncounted due to the stray memory card, that’s only likely to make a 5-10 vote difference in the final margin, depending on the overall number of machines. Unless the alleged nefariousness extended to a voting official in that precinct funneling what they considered to be overwhelmingly likely “yes” voters to that particular machine. Seems unlikely.

    • Hans

      if your numbers are correct, Briarlake passed by 10% of the vote, rather than the 0.5% loss in LVH. If there were irregularities, they warrant investigating even if the vote was overwhelming…but at 0.5% they could well alter the outcome. It’s a change of 68 votes that would swing this election.

      • Samb

        Agreed it should be investigated, but it’s highly unlikely that a particular machine in a voting precinct would tally significantly different results than another machine in the same room. If there were 10 machines in the room, and all were used equally, they’re likely to hover pretty close to 38-31 or so, and so that’s the approximate result we’d expect from an additional missing machine.

  • Kathy Massing

    DeKalb did NOT want to lose the $$$$$ from this area. We have NO police protection and have to pay them EXTRA to come into our neighborhood (like paying the mafia for protection). Now Tucker will have their own police and we will have NONE. Time to move before the crime rate shoots up again (it only went down after we started paying our protection money to the police).

  • Follow The Money

    Kathy Tucker is still using Dekalb for police and i am not sure where you live but by me we have no major crime problems other then the occasional break in. In fact i see Dekalb police patrolling the area all the time. A LVH police force wasn’t going to come patrol your street if thats what you were thinking. Crime is going to happen no matter what. it actually is up in Dunwoody since they got their own police. Just know you got it good. Go visit other parts of Dekalb and tell me where you feel more safe.

  • joepiccaso

    It is a little amazing that people don’t care about possible voter fraud as long as their side won. Put the shoe on the other foot and what do you get? A bunch of people crying Racism, but that’s Ok since “They” are always right. I voted for it, maybe for the wrong reason, to keep some of my tax money in my neighborhood and not going to prosecute corrupt DeKalb County officials. That makes me greedy and a racist, so be it. If the residents didn’t want it, fine, but the fight came from outside the affected territory and most of the misinformation with it.

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