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Tompkins, Hardman dismiss lawsuits against the city

Former Sheriff John Darr (far right) sits in a hearing with his lawyers. Darr’s lawsuit, along with former Superior Court Clerk Linda Pierce’s, against the city have been dismissed by their successors.
Former Sheriff John Darr (far right) sits in a hearing with his lawyers. Darr’s lawsuit, along with former Superior Court Clerk Linda Pierce’s, against the city have been dismissed by their successors. mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.com

Sheriff Donna Tompkins and Superior Court Clerk Ann Hardman have both filed court documents dismissing the lawsuits their predecessors filed against the city of Columbus, some of its top executives and members of Columbus Council.

Columbus attorney Ken Henson filed the voluntary dismissal documents on their behalf Thursday morning.

“The city’s nightmare is over,” said Henson, who drew up the papers for the city at no charge. “The city’s paid enough in legal fees already.”

Former Sheriff John Darr and former Superior Court Clerk Linda Pierce filed lawsuits against the city, the executives and members of council in late 2014, claiming that their office budgets were inadequate and the budgetary process was improper, if not illegal.

The lawsuits have generated many filings and hearings, in Superior Court and in the Georgia Supreme Court. They have also generated about $2 million in legal bills that local taxpayers have had to pay. Because Darr and Pierce were constitutional officers, the city was legally obligated to pay their legal bills, as well as its own, of course.

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, one of the numerous defendants in the lawsuits, said she and the other defendants are “very grateful” to Tompkins and Hardman for ending the “reckless and irresponsible lawsuits.”

“We’re just really glad to have this behind us,” Tomlinson said. “It’s been such a tremendous waste, and not just of money, but the untold hours that have been spent by elected officials, administrative officials, having to deal with these ill-advised and unfounded lawsuits.”

Darr and Pierce both lost their offices in the 2016 elections, with the lawsuits still in the courts.

Two other elected officials, Municipal Court Clerk Vivian Creighton Bishop and Marshal Greg Countryman co-filed a similar lawsuit against the city that is still in the courts. While taxpayers are not responsible for their lawyer fees, the city must still pay its lawyers to defend against the lawsuit.

Tomlinson said the city has filed a countersuit against Countryman and Bishop personally to recoup $15,000 in legal fees that they paid to their attorneys using their city credit cards.

Bishop and Countryman were both reelected in 2016.

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