A Fulton County senior elections department employee has been accused of a potential conflict of interest, and the board of commissioners is urging election officials to take action against him.
The director of the registration division of elections, Ralph Jones Sr., was listed as the registered agent for the R.J. Mays Consulting company, which did more than $3,600 worth of business with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms' 2017 election campaign.
At Wednesday's commission meeting at the Fulton government complex in downtown Atlanta, several county leaders expressed concerns over Jones' situation. District 3 Commissioner Lee Morris said he has great faith in elections department Director Rick Barron, who has looked into this matter and found no evidence regarding a conflict of interest.
“However, if there is even an appearance of a conflict of interest, it looks bad,” Morris said.
According to published reports, Jones’ son, Ralph Jones Jr., said in a statement that the role his father had in the company is that of a third-party designee who could accept documents, notices, forms and other mailings on behalf of his son.
“He has absolutely no financial stake in my company and he did not have a role in the daily operations,” Jones Jr. said in his statement. “We merely live in the same house.”
However, Jones’ son was the social media communications manager for Bottoms’ campaign and now works as the city of Atlanta’s public information officer, according to his LinkedIn profile.
In a statement, District 2 Commissioner Bob Ellis said he is upset about the potential conflict of interest involving Jones Sr.
“That was clearly a conflict of interest, as he was allegedly doing work on behalf of that candidate while also working in our elections department and his responsibilities related to voter registration, and he was responsible for absentee ballots,” Ellis said. “So that was obviously concerning if there was a relationship and this employee was involved in that campaign, which would clearly be a conflict of interest.
“(Barron) talked with us yesterday and reported he was looking into the matter as well as looking at statements from Mr. Jones’ son that the business was exclusively his and his father was not involved, which may very well have been the case. But clearly it looks like a conflict of interest, and the appearance of a conflict of interest does not look good at all and it doesn’t reflect well on us. Clearly all that information is trouble enough.”
However, according to Barron, Jones Sr. had not violated his oath or any ethical standard.