Credit card reactivation for city officials still up in the air

Credit card reactivation for city officials still up in the air

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - For the first time since four elected officials filed a lawsuit against the Columbus Consolidated Government, two plaintiffs in the case and nearly a dozen lawyers from both sides appeared in court Monday, Nov. 24.

Plaintiffs Municipal Court clerk Vivian Creighton Bishop and Marshal Greg Countryman requested a temporary restraining order to have their credit cards reactivated. The city cut off the cards after Countryman and Bishop used them to retain counsel for the case which names Mayor Teresa Tomlinson all city council members, city attorney and city manager as defendants.

Plaintiff Attorney Christopher Balch  said his clients were between a rock and a hard place.

"There's one line in an 18-page document (contract) from the city that claims the cards can't be used for professional purposes. But there's no law that states it can't be used and frankly, we believe the city's conduct forced us into a no choice situation," explained Balch of the Balch Law Group in Atlanta.  Balch said his client received inconsistent information from city officials when they inquired about getting city funds to hire an attorney. 

Defense attorney Carter Schondelmayer told the court with, Senior Judge Hilton Fuller presiding, the move by the plaintiffs was no simple mistake. Schondelmayer went on to describe their actions as 'outrageous.' Schondelmayer also added the plaintiffs were notified beforehand they could not use the cards to hire attorneys.

Exactly how the judge ruled, is seen differently by both sides. Balch said Judge Fuller postponed making a ruling while Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, who did not attend the proceeding, submitted a statement to News Leader 9's Roslyn Giles…"We are pleased the court denied the plaintiffs' motion for a TRO (temporary restraining order) to immediately reinstate the credit cards. We will be filing other dispositive motions promptly and look forward to getting much, if not all of this matter dismissed as soon as possible." 

Another big issue that still has to be hashed out is whether or not city officials have the authority to change elected officials' budgets, which the plaintiffs allege happened for fiscal year 2015. The plaintiffs claim the reduced budgets amounts to inadequate funding for which to operate their perspective departments. 

Both sides say they want to resolve this matter quickly. Another hearing is set for Dec. 19 to entertain a defense motion to dismiss the case and a motion to have legal fees for Sheriff John Darr and Superior Court Clerk Linda Pierce's paid by the city. 

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