Judge delays decision in city lawsuit

Judge delays decision in city lawsuit

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - A judge heard arguments in a legal battle between two elected officials and the City of Columbus on Wednesday, Jan. 14.

The judge stopped short of making a decision after hearing what he called "well-drafted arguments by both sides."

The legal fight started back in November 2014 when plaintiffs Marshal Greg Countryman, Municipal Court Clerk Vivian Creighton Bishop, Sheriff John Darr, and Superior Court Clerk Linda Pierce filed a suit over budget woes against the city.

With defense attorney Melanie Slaton representing the city, Mayor Tomlinson, city council members, city manager Isaiah Hugley and finance director Pam Hodge asked the judge to dismiss all claims by the plaintiffs.

"There's a concept in the law that's called official immunity...that protects officials. There's also legislative immunity for city councilors. You can't go back and sue them because of the way they voted," stated Slaton.

The plaintiffs claim their proposed budgets were reduced, hampering their efforts to operate the individual departments on a daily basis.

Countryman's attorney Chris Balch maintains elected officials have the right to establish their own budgets.

"Part of what we had to do in the complaint what the problems were and what the judge could and should act on those problems," explained Balch.

One of the alleged problems dealing with the city-issued credit cards Countryman and Vivian Creighton Bishop used to pay their legal fees was not heard today.

Darr and Pierce will appear in court Thursday morning.

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