The two-page letter was filed Friday by Canton attorney Jeffery Rusbridge on behalf of a group of citizens from Commission Post 3, which Poole would represent as he has no challenger on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
It alleges that Poole failed to pay $38,599.09 in local and state sales taxes in Alabama.
Rusbridge is asking Janet Munda, Cherokee County Elections and Voter Registration superintendent, to schedule a hearing on the matter before the election.
Munda did not respond to an interview request on Friday.
“The Georgia Constitution, in Article II, (section) II, (paragraph) III, sets forth a number of clear standards of ineligibility to hold office,” the letter states.
“The most relevant in this case is the statement that a person who is ‘the holder of public funds illegally’ is not eligible to hold any office. It has become known, and is a matter of public record, that Brian Keith Poole is illegally holding public funds by failing to pay over sales taxes collected by him to the State of Alabama, in violation of the law.”
Along with the letter filed Friday were dozens of documents that Rusbridge said is evidence to support his claims. They include active certificates of liens for taxes from the Alabama Department of Revenue, totaling $38,599.09 in local and state sales taxes, filed over a two-year span from 2009 to 2011.
“Mr. Poole himself, in sworn statements submitted with his Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition in the Middle District of Alabama, Case No. 10-11227, admitted owning $29,855 in unpaid state and local sales and withholding taxes to the State of Alabama,” the letter states.
“In Alabama, as in Georgia, sales taxes are charged to the consumer and collected by the selling business on behalf of the state. Ala. Code § 40-23-26. Because these are public funds, it is a crime in Alabama, as it is in Georgia, to willfully fail to pay over sales taxes to the state. Ala. Code § 40-29-111. Due to these facts, it is clear that Mr. Poole, by his own admission, is illegally holding public funds and is therefore ineligible to hold the office he seeks.”
Rusbridge also alleged that Poole’s pending bankruptcy case proves that he is ineligible to hold office under another Georgia Constitution provision that deems a person ineligible to hold office who is a “defaulter for any federal, state, county, municipal or school system taxes required of such officeholder or candidate if such person has been finally adjudicated by a court of competent jurisdiction to owe those taxes.”
According to the letter, Poole also owed an additional $9,578 to the Internal Revenue Service for unpaid federal withholding taxes.
The letter goes on to accuse Poole of failing to make regular payments as part of the bankruptcy after a repayment plan was set up for him.
On Friday, Poole told the Cherokee Tribune that the attempt to disqualify him as a candidate is politically motivated. He said he was in “disbelief” over the accusations.
“There’s a lot of slanderous things that’s out there and it’s sad to see the politics in this,” he said. “I never dreamed that something like this would happen. I haven’t done anything underhanded. It was totally a business deal that happened to us four years ago in 2008 and 2009.”
Poole, a funeral home manager in Woodstock, acknowledged that he filed for bankruptcy in Alabama – where he previously lived – on behalf of his company, Poole Management LLC, following the failure of a convenience store that he owned in Dothan, Ala.
In 2008, he said he filed a lawsuit against another Dothan, Ala., company he claims overbilled the store for fuel. Subsequently, he said he was unable to find another gasoline provider.
“My store went from a $2 million a year business to a $200,000 a year business from the time that I sold the store,” said Poole. “The store was never foreclosed on; it was never repossessed, however people want to word it. People need to know the facts.”
Poole said that although his business dealings with the other company were settled, he did not receive enough funds to pay all of bills and taxes owed. He said he was placed on a court-ordered repayment plan to pay off his debts.
He said his attorney in Alabama, Collier Espy, is currently making adjustments to the plan to help him catch up on payments.
The letter from Rusbridge to the elections office states, however, that on Feb. 1 Poole resumed payments, but “Mr. Poole made only on additional payment after the court’s decision.”
However, Poole denied that he cheated the state of Alabama out of any sales taxes. He also said the matter has no bearing on his qualifications as a candidate in Cherokee County.
“I’m running for office in Georgia, not Alabama,” said Poole.
The letter also contends that the state Constitution requires any state taxes, not just those owed in Georgia, be paid.
Poole said that local attorney Channing Ruskell will represent in him responding to the accusations against him.
Ruskell was one of two candidates who challenged incumbent county Commissioner Jim Hubbard of Post 2 in the Republican Primary on July 31. A third candidate, former Cherokee Fire Chief Raymond Gunnin, won the race in a run-off against Hubbard.
Poole became the Republican nominee for Post 3 after defeating Chris Hampton, a member of the Cherokee Recreation and Parks Advisory Board, during the primary election to win the seat now held by Commissioner Karen Bosch, who decided not to seek re-election.
Both Poole and Ruskell were endorsed by the Canton Tea Party as “Tea Party Favorites.”
Poole is scheduled to take office in January following the general election.
During the campaign, Poole faced questions about his short length of residency in the county. He, his wife and two daughters have lived in the county for 16 months.
Rusbridge declined to identify the citizens whom he said hired him to challenge Poole’s candidacy in the past week. He said he is hopeful the matter can be settled before the election in November.
If the Cherokee County Elections and Voter Registration office rejects his request, Rusbridge said he would consider taking action in Cherokee Superior Court.
“It’s my understanding that this information became known within the last week or two,” Rusbridge said. “Our goal was to present it as soon as we could and that means at this stage asking the elections superintendent to deem him ineligible.”