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State judge considers complaint challenging Georgia senate candidate’s election qualification

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State judge considers complaint challenging Georgia senate candidate’s election qualification

State Senate candidate Nadine Thomas (right) and her attorney, Richard Schrade (left), appear before the Office of State Administrative Hearings on April 2, 2024. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

This story has been updated.

Atlanta, GA — A judge with the Office of State Administrative Hearings heard the case of Krista Brewer v. Nadine Thomas on Tuesday, April 2. The case challenges whether Thomas is qualified to seek and hold public office.

Thomas qualified to run for state Senate District 44, currently held by Sen. Elena Parent. Brewer, a resident of Senate District 44, challenged Thomas’ qualification to run for office because she owes over $38,000 in state and federal taxes, according to the complaint.

The Georgia Constitution prohibits anyone who has defaulted on their taxes from holding public office unless the taxes have been repaid or the candidate is on a repayment plan.

“The Georgia Constitution Article 2, section two, paragraph three is the operative provision, and that’s in the notice of candidacy that Ms. Thomas files and every other candidate files when they seek to qualify stating that they either don’t owe taxes or that they are in a payment plan and in good standing. It’s the ‘in good standing’ that I think is where this case is decided,” said Jeremy Berry, Brewer’s attorney.

Judge Ronit Walker presided over the hearing and has not yet decided on the case.

The Office of State Administrative Hearings is a state agency that holds hearings to resolve disputes between government agencies, including disputes about candidate qualifications. The administrative law judge who presided over Tuesday’s hearing will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State, who will make the final decision. Either side can appeal the outcome of that decision to the Superior Court in Fulton County.

Thomas has been on a payment plan since July 2023 for her federal taxes and owes $16,145 for taxes owed in 2007, 2009 and 2017.

She also owes $16,667 in state taxes for payments due in 2013, 2015, and 2016. Thomas owes an additional $5,714 in state taxes in 2018. Thomas also has a payment plan with the Georgia Department of Revenue.

According to documents presented during the hearing, she owed about $28,576 on her payment plan as of Feb. 22, 2024.

During her testimony, Thomas said she knew she owed taxes when she qualified and that she was on a payment plan when she qualified.

“My interpretation was if I was on a payment plan, that I would be ok,” Thomas said in response to Berry. “Yes, I do owe taxes, and yes, I do pay my taxes.”

Thomas said during the hearing that she has made monthly payments on her federal taxes since September 2023 and only missed one payment in February 2024. She received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service dated March 4 that stated she would still be in good standing with her payment plan if the IRS received her next monthly payment on March 20.

“[The letter] says, ‘you will be in good standing as long as you make your next monthly payment’,” Walker said.

Thomas said she paid $1,000 on March 22 toward her tax balance.

Berry, Brewer’s attorney, questioned whether Thomas needed to solely make the next monthly payment or if the payment due in March should have been for two months to make up for February as well. He also asked the respondents for more documentation about payments that have been made.

Berry said in his opening statement that the plaintiff believed Thomas could not show that she had made payments under her state and federal payment plans.

“We learned of this payment plan after we filed the [complaint],” Berry said. “She appears to be in payment plans, both federal and state. State, from what I can tell, seems to be in good standing. I think it’s an evidentiary or burden issue of whether she’s made the March 20, 2024, payment, the most recent one.”

Thomas and her attorney, Richard Schrade, provided a credit card statement showing the recent $1,000 payment and provided her payment history to the Georgia Department of Revenue. They had no other documents showing payments had been made toward her federal taxes. Thomas’ attorney provided documentation to the court confirming that she had payment plans from the state and the IRS.

In responding to questions from her attorney, Thomas agreed that it was her understanding that her payment plans cover all of her unpaid taxes. She has made payments on those plans, and she is in good standing. Those payment plans are still in effect.

“In this case, there’s a payment plan,” Schrade said during his closing statement. “Payments were made. Ms. Thomas testified to that. The IRS verified that [the payment plan was in effect] in March 2024. Your Honor, it’s clear that she would not have a payment plan in effect in March of 2024 if she hadn’t made those payments.”

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