ATLANTA (CBS46) — Only on CBS46, the state Ethics Commission has opened a campaign finance investigation into a former Atlanta mayoral candidate.
It comes after the Georgia Secretary of State’s office began investigating Kirsten Dunn’s felony convictions – following our CBS46 investigation which uncovered a number of allegations against her.
So how did Dunn end up on the ballot in the first place?
After contacting both the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and the Atlanta Superintendent of Elections, CBS46 investigative reporter Rachel Polansky learned that candidates did not have to undergo background checks.
They must complete and sign a “Notice of Nomination and Affidavit”. And, it’s likely that Dunn’s signed affidavit will become the heart of the Secretary of State’s investigation.
No background checks
When we asked these offices why not, a spokesperson for the Georgian Secretary of State said, “Georgia Code 21-2-6 states that the Superintendent of Municipal Elections will determine if the candidate is qualified to solicit and hold the public office for which this candidate is offered’.”
But Atlanta Superintendent of Elections Foris Webb III said, “I am not authorized to perform criminal background checks or access or view GCIC or NCIC records.”
CBS46 Investigates brought these findings to Dr. Tammy Greer, professor of political science at Clark University in Atlanta.
“Does it surprise you that background checks are not done? asked Polanski.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Greer said.
Greer also offered a potential solution.
“Could it be possible for candidates, especially at the municipal level, to provide their own background checks, when they submit their documents and fees in order to be on the ballot? This could include an NCIC check. It could also include a GBI check,” Greer said. “It may be a way to satisfy both ends until a permanent solution can be found.”
There is, however, a safeguard in place. Applicants must complete and sign a “Nomination Notice and Affidavit”.
In it it is stated: “I have never been convicted and sentenced by a court of competent jurisdiction for fraudulent violation of primary or electoral laws, professional misconduct or crime involving moral turpitude or conviction for domestic violence under the laws of this state, any other state, or of the United States…” it goes on to say, “I understand that any false statement knowingly made by me in this notice of nomination and affidavit will subject me to criminal penalties as provided by law. … »
Kirsten Dunn signed her “nomination notice and affidavit” on August 20, 2021.
As for what happens next, Dr. Greer says this situation is far more important than a candidate’s actions.
“It is essential that we have this process under control, because how many other candidates may have violated this oath that we are not aware of?” Greer asked.
CBS46 Investigates asked Kirsten Dunn for a follow-up interview to talk about our new findings. She would not accept an interview unless we sent her our questions in advance. This is something that CBS46 Investigates does not do for interviews.
Of the 96,158 votes cast in the Atlanta mayoral election, Dunn received only 267 votes, good for 9th place in the 14-candidate race.
Stand for election as a convicted felon
Dunn was candid about her troubled past and she admits to spending time in prison in her early 20s. She failed to mention the rest of her criminal history, which includes charges of fraud, theft and tampering with government records, as recent as 2015.
The Dallas County, Texas Sheriff’s Office confirmed to CBS46 Investigates that Dunn is a five-time convicted felon.
” It happened ? Have you been pardoned? CBS46 investigator Rachel Polansky asked Kirsten Dunn.
“I have for my felony charge,” said Dunn, whose response kept changing throughout our interview. “Well, that wasn’t a grace. It was, I lost the word so fast, basically where it was just forgiven.
“Who signed this?” asked Polanski.
“He was a judge in Texas. I don’t remember the exact name of the judge,” Dunn replied.
But that’s not how it works. Dunn should have gone to the Texas or Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. Neither of them had any trace of it.
“If she received any type of restoration, we would have a record of it,” Linda Winston of the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles said.
“You’re not allowed to run for office because you can’t hold the office,” said Manny Arora, criminal defense attorney and assistant professor at Georgia State University.
Former fans speak out
“I feel cheated, bamboozled,” said Roosevelt Searles III, another Atlanta mayoral candidate. He dropped out of the race and endorsed Dunn a week before the election.
“It’s a bad look. Not just at the black and brown community, but at the political community. It just reinforces everyone’s beliefs that politicians are crooks and liars,” Searles III said.
There’s also Janet Mayfield Scott, who invested $44,000 in one of Dunn’s business ventures and says she didn’t see a dime in return.
“It makes me sad because we all work for our money and she knew it was with bad intentions,” Mayfield Scott said.
During the investigation, CBS46 Investigates spoke with several campaign staffers and former employees who say they worked for Dunn and were never paid for their services.