Gordon Mayor Mary Ann Whipple-Lue is back in office temporarily, but under several conditions that curtail her authority, according to a court order filed Tuesday.
The decision by Robert Reeves, a Wilkinson County Superior Court judge, maintains the status quo in Gordon until there’s a final resolution of the case. The order was issued a week after Reeves asked both sides to seek a compromise before that final decision.
Whipple-Lue was suspended from her mayoral duties July 3 after a group called Concerned Citizens for Gordon asked the court for an injunction. They claimed that Whipple-Lue had violated open meetings requirements, prevented public safety employees from obtaining fuel for emergency vehicles, tried to bind the city to a contract without proper approval, and violated provisions of the city charter, among other claims.
Tuesday’s decision severely curbs what Whipple-Lue will be able to do in office while the case is still being fought.
Among the conditions laid out in Tuesday’s order are:
Whipple-Lue cannot meet with three or more council members to discuss city business. All such meetings must be open to the public, and notice must be made public.
Whipple-Lue can only cast a vote on an issue in case of a 3-3 tie. The only exception, the order said, is with regard to elected officers, which doesn’t include the city attorney or city employees.
Whipple-Lue cannot prevent public safety employees from obtaining fuel for emergency vehicles.
Whipple-Lue cannot enter into any contract binding the city without a vote of the council.
Whipple-Lue cannot terminate any employee without full due process as provided for in the city charter, state and federal law, plus the approval of the Superior Court after the opportunity for a hearing.
Whipple cannot lock, bar or otherwise prevent individuals or organizations from conducting business or providing services in any building owned, leased or maintained by the city.
In addition, both Whipple-Lue and the plaintiffs were ordered not to have four or more council members meet privately to conduct city business; threaten or intimidate, directly or indirectly, any party involved in the suit; or destroy any documents kept in the regular course of city business or as a matter of public record.
Attorneys for both sides said they were pleased with the judge’s decision.
Devlin Cooper, who represents the plaintiffs, said: “We are satisfied with the court’s order, which also finds that there is a probability of success on the merits. It provided us with the necessary safeguards while the litigation is pending while maintaining some prospects of settlement.”
Wayne Kendall, Whipple-Lue’s attorney, said he and the mayor are still discussing the restrictions placed on her in the order.
“I’m happy the judge restored her to her position as mayor of the city of Gordon,” he said.
Kendall declined to comment on how Whipple-Lue would be able to work with the council members and employees who filed the lawsuit.
Writer Amy Leigh Womack contributed to this report. To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.