Forrest County Deputy Sheriff voted in mayoral election, used relative's address

Robert Earl Gray has been a Forrest County Deputy Sheriff since 1996.

According to Hattiesburg city voter rolls, Gray voted in the June 4th Hattiesburg Mayoral Election at the Rowan precinct.  Gray is registered to vote using a Townsend Street home as his Hattiesburg address; however, according to the Lamar County Tax Assessor's Office, Gray has claimed homestead exemption at a house on Poole Road in Lamar County since 1991.

The Townsend street address, according to Forrest County homestead exemption records, is listed in a relative's name. Gray could not be contacted for an interview.

Forrest County Sheriff Billy McGee said he is aware of the situation, and told Gray that he is disappointed in him, but that he had no plans to terminate the deputy.

Another status of a city official's residency status is in question.

Carol Jones Russell, municipal judge pro tem, voted in both elections for mayor using her Tuscan Avenue address, where she says she has lived since 2009, except for one year when it was rented out.

In January 2012, Russell married a Stone County homeowner.

According to Stone County Tax Assessor Charles Williams, the husband signed up for homestead exemption as a single person on Jan. 27, 2012.  The couple married the next day.   In a written statement prepared by Carol Jones Russell, she states that her husband lives in the Stone County home, and that since they live apart for work purposes, the Stone County home is used "as a peaceful retreat after our work weeks."

According to Kathy Waterbury with the Department of Revenue, a married  couple cannot have exemptions at two separate locations.  Ms. Waterbury said if the couple wanted to keep the exemption on the Stone county home, Carol Jones Russell's name should have been added in January 2013.  Tax assessor Williams says it wasn't. Williams did confirm he was approached last week by someone other than Mr. Russell  to have the homestead exemption in Stone county deleted from the tax rolls.  Williams says he could not comply with the request unless or until the request comes from Mr. Russell.