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Al’s tactics worry rollback leaders

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Ellis County Press

WAXAHACHIE - Rollback petitions containing 8,740 signatures were presented to County Administrative Assistant Delton Ake on Friday, Dec. 22.

Ake received the petitions for County Judge Al Cornelius, who was out of town. County Auditor Mike Navarro and County Treasurer Mark Price were called in to witness the transaction.

'Our major concern is how they will be handled now,' said John Tabor, organizer of the petition drive. Tabor claims Cornelius used his office to apply pressure to area store managers to prevent citizens from collecting signatures from people in favor of a tax rollback.

'If he'll go to that extent to stop this,' Tabor said, 'I'm real concerned.'

'I'm one that was kicked out of RaceTrac and Wal-Mart,' said taxpayer Marshal Evans. 'They called the corporate offices of those companies. We really don't want to hand it to them and leave.'

Petition drive organizers questioned Ake about the chain of responsibility for the petitions and asked if they could be present when signatures are verified.

'You have already verified them,' said Ake. 'Now it's the county's opportunity to do that.'

But Columnist Duff Hale corrected him. 'We didn't have the voter rolls,' Hale said. 'We're talking about when the signatures are compared and either accepted or rejected. Are we going to be able to be present and challenge?'

'I'm sure you have a right to challenge it,' responded Ake. He agreed to pass along the group's request for a representative to be present while county officials are working with the petitions. Ake said the petitions would be locked up over the holiday weekend and would be transported to the elections office on Weds., Dec. 27.

'Probably in the seat of my Chevy,' Ake said, attempting humor.

Ake, Navarro, and Price verified the numbering on the 541 pages of signatures. 'It might be wise to run them a copy,' Navarro said. Marshal Evans and Buddy Jones joined Ake at the copier.

Commissioner Jerry Holland, Pct. 2, was the commissioner in charge in the absence of Judge Cornelius. He arrived in the parking lot of the temporary county offices while the copies were being made.

'I'm just going to go and see what's going on,' he said. 'What's been turned in to the county. Judy was trying to find the judge.'

Elections office officials have 20 days in which to compare the signatures to voter registration rolls and determine whether or not an election is mandated. According to an article in Thursday's edition of the Ennis Daily News, Cornelius had reported receiving a number of calls from people wanting to remove their names from rollback petitions. County officials were providing affidavits, which the individuals would need to sign, have notarized and return to the judge's office before the petitions were received there.

Hale has repeatedly said petitions organizers are only asking for a chance for taxpayers to vote on the 26.07% tax increase commissioners approved. 'If nothing else, if (the rollback) doesn't go through,' said Hale, 'At least I will know I've done everything possible to make my voice heard.' Hale went on to say a voter's responsibility only begins with casting a vote.

'If I don't tell them what I think,' he said, 'Whose fault is that? Mine.'

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