Dismissal decision hangs in the balance

Dismissal decision hangs in the balance

(WTVM) - The decision to dismiss lawsuits filed by four Muscogee County elected officials now hangs in the balance following separate hearings in Muscogee County Superior Court.

Sheriff John Darr, Marshal Greg Countryman, Superior Court Clerk Linda Pierce and Municipal Court Clerk Vivian Creighton Bishop all claim they cannot operate their individual departments on their existing budgets.

The budgets are due prior to the start of the fiscal year in July. But this year, the plaintiffs alleged their individual budgets were reduced and handed to them by city officials without their input. 

On Monday, January 12, Judge Hilton Fuller from DeKalb County began hearing arguments on the city's counter suit to dismiss all claims.

"The city appropriated $2.1 million for her budget. that did not include the half of million dollars needed to cover the 300,000 records that were lost," stated Attorney Bill Stone of Blakely, Ga.

Stone, representing Pierce, said the files including convictions and mortgages were a result of a computer crash in the city's IT department. They failed to back up the computer system on a daily bases so they could be stored to the official records of Columbus.

Marshal Countryman's Attorney Chris Balch said his clients claims are valid.

"We believe our claims are addressable wrongs... that the city council and officials have acted inappropriately and we believe the judge will let it go forward and judge it on its merits and not he procedural motions," Balch said.

Speaking on behalf of the defendant, city attorney Clifton Fay said he's optimistic about the outcome. He is not on the legal time, trying the case for the defendants. 

"These doctrines of law already bar these claims even after the third amended complaint filed by a couple of the plaintiffs. and some of these issues may end in the Georgia supreme court for final resolution," added Fay. 

The doctrines of law attorney Clifton Fay is referring to deals with different immunities, like sovereign immunity, legislative immunity or official immunity, which protects a city from prosecution.

The judge did not give a timeline for when he'll have a decision.

Copyright 2015 WTVM. All Rights Reserved