John Darr is no longer sheriff in Muscogee County, but the city is still paying his legal bills.
Columbus Council voted Tuesday in favor of an ordinance amending the city’s 2017 operating budget to pay three attorneys for representing Darr in a controversial lawsuit against the city. The fees amount to about $53,000.
The legal fees stem from a lawsuit that Darr filed in 2014, claiming his budgets were insufficient to carry out his obligations. Former Superior Court Clerk Linda Pierce filed a similar suit. In 2016, the two elected officials ran unsuccessfully for office, losing their seats to Donna Tompkins and Ann Hardman, respectively. Since being elected, Tompkins and Hardman have dismissed the lawsuits.
Marshal Greg Countryman and Municipal Court Clerk Vivian Creighton Bishop co-filed another lawsuit, but they were re-elected to office in 2016. Their case remains in Superior Court.
In the Darr and Pierce suits, the city had to pay for its own lawyers, as well as the plaintiffs’ because they were constitutional officers. Countryman and Bishop are not constitutional officers, so the city is not required to pay their bills.
In total, the city has paid more than $2 million in attorney fees in the three lawsuits.
City Attorney Clifton Fay warned councilors in a previous meeting that if they refused to pay the bills, council could be held in contempt of court.
The ordinance amending the budget passed unanimously with no discussion.