Barring a last-minute court ruling to the contrary, Gordon’s mayor is set to return to office Thursday after being suspended for the past month.
Turmoil erupted soon after Mary Ann Whipple-Lue took office in January, unseating the incumbent by 40 votes.
Four employees filed claims with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming racial discrimination.
Two city councilmen and a newly formed group, the Concerned Citizens of Gordon, filed suit seeking Whipple-Lue’s removal from office. They alleged malfeasance and multiple violations of the state’s Open Meetings Act.
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Wayne Kendall, Whipple-Lue’s lawyer, filed an emergency motion with the Georgia Court of Appeals June 19 seeking to ban the Superior Court judge on the case from making any more decisions.
Kendall alleged that the judge, Robert Reeves of the Middle Judicial Circuit, is biased. Reeves was assigned the case after local judges disqualified themselves.
Kendall also contended that Reeves didn’t have the authority to issue a June 2 restraining order, temporarily removing Whipple-Lue from office, because a prior ruling in the case was under appeal.
The appellate court granted Kendall’s motion June 20.
Devlin Cooper, the Macon lawyer representing the group seeking the mayor’s ouster, said he disputes whether the Court of Appeals’ ruling means Reeves can’t set a hearing to determine if the mayor’s suspension should be extended until the lawsuit is resolved.
He filed a motion for reconsideration June 24, but the appeals court had not ruled by Tuesday afternoon.
Cooper said he plans to file a motion to seek a hearing in Superior Court if he doesn’t receive clarification soon from the appellate judges on their ruling. If granted, he said he’ll ask for Reeves’ interpretation of the ruling during the hearing.
Although it’s likely that Whipple-Lue will return to office Thursday, Cooper said the plaintiffs can also ask the Court of Appeals for another temporary restraining order if it’s decided that the matter can’t go before Reeves.
The group could also file a new lawsuit if they believe Whipple-Lue has participated in misconduct, he said.
Attempts to reach Whipple-Lue and Kendall were unsuccessful Tuesday.
Before her suspension, Whipple-Lue allegedly had voted during a city council meeting in instances not allowed by the city charter.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.