Of the four local elected officials who are suing the city over budget issues, two have been ostensibly re-elected, one has been defeated at the polls and one is facing opposition on Tuesday’s General Election ballot.
Both of Sheriff John Darr’s opponents say if they were to be elected, they would not pursue the lawsuit he filed against the city in late 2014. Mike Garner, a write-in candidate for clerk of Superior Court, also said he would not pursue the lawsuit Linda Pierce filed at about the same time as Darr’s suit was filed. Ann Hardman, the Democratic nominee for clerk of Superior Court and the only name on the ballot, said she is not sure what she will do.
Municipal Court Clerk Vivian Creighton Bishop and Marshal Greg Countryman, who co-filed a similar suit against the city, defeated their Democratic Primary opponents and face no Republican opposition Tuesday. Pierce lost her Democratic Primary to Hardman, a local minister.
Darr, who has run as a Democrat in the past, bypassed the primaries and is running as an Independent. He faces Democratic nominee Donna Tompkins and Republican Mark LaJoye on Tuesday, as well as Pam Brown, who was disqualified from the Democratic Primary and is running as a write-in candidate.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Ledger-Enquirer
LaJoye said he would work with Columbus Council and City Attorney Clifton Fay to get the suit dismissed.
“I would definitely work with the city attorney, Mr. Fay, the city council and the attorneys at hand who the sheriff has hired to get the lawsuit dropped,” LaJoye said. “I’ve said from the very beginning that I wouldn’t want that hanging over my head.”
Tompkins said she understands she would have to sign on to the suit as a plaintiff for it to continue, and she “certainly wouldn’t do that.”
“As I understand, I can’t dismiss it because my name isn’t on it,” Tompkins said. “But I certainly wouldn’t sign on to it, and I can’t imagine John wanting to continue it if he’s out of office.”
Brown, the write-in candidate for sheriff, could not be reached for comment.
Only Hardman was unsure about what she might do, because she hasn’t seen the lawsuit and wants an attorney’s opinion on it.
“If I’m elected, I’m going to look closely at it to see what’s being said and what’s not being said,” Hardman said. “I’ll need to get with an attorney and have him go through it with me so I really understand it. So I can’t say right now.”
Garner said recently he would definitely drop the lawsuit against the city, and in fact said he advised Pierce not to file it in the first place. He said trying to settle budget issues in the courts instead of in the legislative process where it belongs “shows weakness.”
Fay said the challengers’ opinions may be moot were they to unseat the incumbents.
Because both Pierce’s and Darr’s lawsuits were filed solely in their official capacity, if they are no longer in office, there are no longer plaintiffs in the lawsuits, Fay explained.
“If they’re no longer in office, there is no longer a plaintiff, so the lawsuits would go away,” Fay said.
Darr, Pierce, Countryman and Bishop filed suit against the city and its top leadership in late 2014 over the amount of their department budgets and over the process used to arrive at their budget totals. Much of Darr’s and Pierce’s lawsuits have been tossed out by the courts, but what remains still is being litigated in Superior Court. Countryman and Bishop’s suit is in the Georgia Court of Appeals.
By law, the city must pay attorney fees for Darr and Pierce because they are constitutional officers. Countryman and Bishop are responsible for their own attorney fees. And the city must of course pay for its defense attorneys. In total, the lawsuits have cost taxpayers about $2.13 million. Almost two-thirds of that total has been in the Darr suit, which has run up a $1.04 million defense bill and $417,000 in plaintiff fees for a total of almost $1.46 million.
SAMPLE BALLOT FOR MUSCOGEE COUNTY
NOTE: This composite ballot does not include uncontested races. Because voters live in different congressional and state house districts, the races listed won’t be on all ballots.
For President of the United States
DONALD J. TRUMP – President
MICHAEL R. PENCE – Vice President
HILLARY CLINTON –President
TIM KAINE – Vice President
GARY JOHNSON – President
BILL WELD – Vice President
CLAIRE ELISABETH ELLIOTT
DAVID C. BYRNE
MICHAEL L. SMITH
STEPHEN L ALLEN
For United States Senate
For Public Service Commissioner (To Succeed Tim Echols)
For U.S. Representative In 115th Congress From the 2nd Congressional District of Georgia
For U.S. Representative In 115th Congress From the 3rd Congressional District of Georgia
For State Senator From 29th District
For Clerk of Superior Court
ANN L. HARDMAN
JOHN T. DARR
PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
Provides greater flexibility and state accountability to fix failing schools through increasing community involvement.
Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?
( ) Yes
( ) No
Authorizes penalties for sexual exploitation and assessments on adult entertainment to fund child victims' services.
Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow additional penalties for criminal cases in which a person is adjudged guilty of keeping a place of prostitution, pimping, pandering, pandering by compulsion, solicitation of sodomy, masturbation for hire, trafficking of persons for sexual servitude, or sexual exploitation of children and to allow assessments on adult entertainment establishments to fund the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund to pay for care and rehabilitative and social services for individuals in this state who have been or may be sexually exploited?
( ) Yes
( ) No
Reforms and re-establishes the Judicial Qualifications Commission and provides for its composition, governance, and powers.
Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to abolish the existing Judicial Qualifications Commission; require the General Assembly to create and provide by general law for the composition, manner of appointment, and governance of a new Judicial Qualifications Commission, with such commission having the power to discipline, remove, and cause involuntary retirement of judges; require the Judicial Qualifications Commission to have procedures that provide for due process of law and review by the Supreme Court of its advisory opinions; and allow the Judicial Qualifications Commission to be open to the public in some manner?
( ) Yes
( ) No
Dedicates revenue from existing taxes on fireworks to trauma care, fire services, and public safety.
Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide that the proceeds of excise taxes on the sale of fireworks or consumer fireworks be dedicated to the funding of trauma care, firefighter equipping and training, and local public safety purposes?
( ) Yes
( ) No
Shall the Act be approved which eliminates the current base year assessed value homestead exemption for purposes of Muscogee County school and consolidated city-county government ad valorem taxes for homestead property acquired after January 1, 2017?
( ) Yes
( ) No
MUSCOGEE COUNTY PRECINCTS
- Wynnton Methodist Church, 2412 Wynnton Road.
- Columbus Public Library, 3000 Macon Road.
- St. John AME Church, 3980 Steam Mill Road.
- Britt David Baptist Church, 2801 Britt David Road.
- St. Peter Methodist Church, 6507 Moon Road.
- Cornerstone Church of God, 7701 Lloyd Road.
- Columbus Tech, 928 Manchester Expwy.
- St. Mark UMC, 6795 Whitesville Road.
- Wynnbrook Baptist Church, 500 River Knoll Way.
- Cusseta Road Church of Christ, 3013 Cusseta Road.
- National Infantry Museum, 1775 Legacy Way.
- Eddy Middle School, 2100 S. Lumpkin Road.
- Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church, 4400 Old Cusseta Road.
- Faith Tabernacle Church, 1603 Floyd Road.
- Fort Middle School, 2900 Woodruff Farm Road.
- Rothschild Middle School, 1136 Hunt Ave.
- Church of Jesus Christ LDS, 4400 Reese Road.
- St. Paul Methodist Church, 2101 Wildwood Ave.
- North Highland Assembly of God, 7300 Whittlesey Blvd.
- St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, 4980 Hancock Road.
- Salvation Army Church, 5201 Warm Springs Road.
- First African Baptist Church, 901 Fifth Ave.
- Epworth UMC, 2400 Devonshire Drive.
- Marianna Gallops Center, 1212 15th St.
- Edgewood Baptist Church, 3564 Forrest Road.
- Psalmond Road Rec Center, 6500 Psalmond Road.
RUSSELL COUNTY PRECINCTS
- Roy Martin Center, 1100 Airport Road, Phenix City.
- Ladonia Volunteer Fire Department Station, 3855 U.S. 80 West, Phenix City.
- Central Activities Building, 1500 14th St., Phenix City.
- National Guard Armory, 3614 S. Railroad St., Phenix City.
- Russell County Courthouse, 1000 Broad St., Phenix City.
- Claude Parkman Building, Prentiss Griffith Drive, Phenix City.
- Spencer Recreation Center, 400 8th Ave. S., Phenix City.
- Fort Mitchell Community Center, 870 Alabama Highway 165, Fort Mitchell.
- Troy University, 2602 College Drive, Phenix City.
- Crawford Volunteer Fire Department, 6 Alabama Highway 169 S., Phenix City.
- Dixie Volunteer Fire Department, 15 Lamb Road, Opelika.
- Cottonton Volunteer Fire Department, 1835 Alabama Highway 165, Pittsview.
- Pittsview Volunteer Fire Department, 5741 U.S. 431 S., Pittsview.
- Old Russell County Courthouse, 5 Jackson St., Seale.
- Hatchechubbee Volunteer Fire Department, 495 Blanding Road, Hatchechubbee.
- Hurtsboro Volunteer Fire Department Station, 405 Daniel St., Hurtsboro.
- Austin Sumbry Park 3999 U.S. 431 S., Phenix City.
- Absentee box: Russell County Courthouse, Broad St., Phenix City.