Gordon mayor’s trial postponed

The Georgia Supreme Court has issued a stay, postponing a trial previously set for next week that would have determined whether Gordon’s mayor violated the state’s Open Meetings Act.

Two city councilmen and members of the Concerned Citizens of Gordon group filed a lawsuit early this year seeking Mary Ann Whipple-Lue’s removal from office. They alleged malfeasance and that multiple government meetings were held without proper notice.

The state’s highest court is scheduled to hear arguments Jan. 20 on appellate motions filed by the mayor’s lawyer, Wayne Kendall, seeking to overturn rulings already issued in the case.

Kendall alleges the lawsuit is racially motivated, and his client hasn’t violated the Open Meetings Act.

“Anybody can file anything,” he said of the lawsuit.

But, Kendall said, Superior Court Judge Robert Reeves “isn’t following the rule of law” while presiding over the case.

“This should have been dismissed,” he said.

Devlin Cooper, the lawyer representing the Concerned Citizens Group and councilmen Terry Eady and Freddie Densley, said none of the appellate motions filed by Kendall are matters that can’t be considered after a trial is held.

“He is intentionally delaying the trial” and is “trying to run up costs for our clients,” Cooper said of Kendall. “No matter what, there is a lawsuit on the other side.”

Cooper characterized Kendall’s motions as “frivolous” and said the motion to dismiss the case doesn’t pertain to allegations of misfeasance, malfeasance and incompetence included in the group’s lawsuit.

Testimony at hearings has alleged Whipple-Lue improperly hired an auditor and dismissed the city attorney without a legal vote.

Cooper denied the lawsuit is racially motivated.

Among the motions set to be argued are ones seeking to have Reeves removed from the case due to allegations of bias and that the case should be dismissed.

Kendall said he also plans to argue that conditions Reeves placed on Whipple-Lue this summer are “improper and unauthorized.”

Whipple-Lue was suspended from office twice this summer after allegations surfaced that she illegally cast votes at city council meetings in instances not allowed by the city charter.

Reeves returned her to office on multiple conditions, including that she abide by Open Meetings Act requirements and only vote in the case of a 3-3 tie except in regard to elected officers, not including the city attorney or city employees.

Judges from the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit, which includes Wilkinson County, disqualified themselves from handling the case. Reeves, a judge from the neighboring Middle Judicial Circuit, was assigned to the case.

Kendall asked the state’s highest court for a stay Monday, arguing that Reeves didn’t have jurisdiction to hold a trial while the appellate motions were pending. The court issued the stay Tuesday.

As part of preparations for the trial, both sides have been conducting depositions -- sworn interviews of potential witnesses conducted in front of a court reporter.

Cooper said Kendall threw him out of his office Dec. 3 in an attempt to prematurely end the mayor’s deposition after six and a half hours of questioning. Rules allow seven and a half hours.

After consulting Reeves, both sides agreed to continue for another 45 minutes, Cooper said.

The deposition was Whipple-Lue’s second time taking an oath and testifying in the case. The first time, during a contempt hearing held in October, she pleaded “the Fifth” 67 times in response to questions posed by Cooper.

During her deposition, she admitted that she violated the Open Meetings Act, Cooper said.

Kendall said Wednesday that Cooper and his clients don’t have a case based on claims Whipple-Lue violated the Open Meetings Act.

He said the Concerned Citizens group has been filing additional matters in court -- temporary restraining orders and allegations of contempt -- in attempts to “put meat on the bone” using collateral issues.

The temporary restraining orders resulted in Whipple-Lue’s suspension from office this summer.

The motion for contempt alleged the mayor violated Reeves’ conditions returning her to office by her attempting to fire the city’s attorney. Reeves denied the motion for contempt at an October hearing although he ruled she did violate the spirit of his order.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.