Macon council president Paris cited due to pet violation, incident with officer

Macon police cited Macon City Council President Miriam Paris with two misdemeanors this weekend: failure to restrain a dog and resisting or interfering with an officer.

The charges, which did not result in arrest, stemmed from an apparently ongoing disagreement between Paris and a U.S. Postal Service worker about the council president’s dogs.

Paris, who e-mailed a statement in response to messages left for her Monday, suggested police made matters worse.

"Since I have been on council, I have heard an increasing chorus of complaints concerning the mishandling of city residents by some on the MPD," she wrote. "On Saturday, unfortunately I received first hand experience of that treatment I had previously only heard about. I'm very disappointed in the entire situation."

According to the police report filed by officer Jon Wantz, the mail carrier flagged him down Saturday morning to tell him that a black dog from Paris' Suwanee Avenue home had been chasing her. When the postal worker made contact with Paris, the council president began yelling at the woman and suggested she needed to find a new career if she couldn't handle a dog, the report stated.

“The next thing you know, she’ll be complaining about the weather,” Paris said, according to Wantz.

After sending the postal worker to continue her route, Wantz said he advised Paris of the city’s leash law. She asked to see it, so he returned to his office, made copies of the law, and brought it back to her. By that time, Wantz wrote, a small dog Paris owned was “running around defecating in other peoples yards.”

In his report, Wantz said he then offered copies of the law to Paris but she said she already had them. At that point, the officer said he asked Paris if she was part of City Council.

“Aaah ... I think I’m the president,” he said she told him. Wantz then asked Paris for identification. She initially refused, saying that she had just gotten off the phone with Chief Mike Burns, and that he told her not to show the officer her ID, Wantz said.

Burns, in an interview Monday afternoon, said he did not speak to Paris until more than an hour after the incident occurred. But Deputy Chief Mike Carswell said he spoke with Paris on the phone at the time of the incident, and said she only asked him whether a police officer could request her driver’s license if she was at her house and wasn’t being pulled over.

“She just asked me a question and I answered ... but it was out of context with what was going on out there,” Carswell said. According to Wantz’ report, when Paris called Carswell in his presence, she passed the phone to the officer and Carswell told him “that if the situation warranted, write the citation.”

The police officer again asked for ID, and Paris went into her house. When she returned with her car keys, Wantz said she told him to move his cruiser because it was blocking her driveway. He again asked for her ID, and this time she gave it to him. Wantz said he moved his car, then issued Paris the citations. She has a Municipal Court date of July 6.

Burns and Carswell said the council president did not ask for nor receive special treatment. They said the postal worker who flagged down Wantz had filed two or three previous complaints about Paris’ dogs, although this was the first time Paris had been cited.

“It was basically a dog jumping the fence,” Burns said, adding that Paris said she is now planning to find a new home for the animal.

Other council members generally declined to comment on the incident.

Councilman Virgil Watkins, who represents Ward IV with Paris and is chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee, seemed surprised The Telegraph had a copy of the police report. He said he wouldn’t want Paris discussing his business in the newspaper if their roles were reversed.

“I’m going to let that be between her and everyone else,” he said.

President pro-tem James Timley said he wondered how else Paris could be expected to restrain her dog. Over his objection, City Council passed an ordinance last year prohibiting people from keeping dogs tied up outside for extended lengths of time.

“All I can tell you is I don’t see why she was cited since we have an anti-tethering law and the dog wasn’t supposed to be tethered,” he said.

Councilwoman Nancy White, a primary proponent of that law and friend of Paris’, said she had little to say since she did not witness the incident. But she said she knew Paris had an ongoing feud with the mail carrier.

“I know her dogs,” White said. “I’ve been to her house and never had a problem with her dogs.”

To contact writer Matt Barnwell, call 744-4251.