Thomasville Times Enterprise

December 26, 2013

Meigs mayoral mess

Patti Dozier
Associated Press

THOMASVILLE — The Meigs mayor-elect has been charged with stalking and banned from Meigs City Hall in an action brought by the incumbent mayor.

Linda Harris, mayor-elect, defeated incumbent Mayor Cynthia Chaney by four votes in November.

Chaney said incidents provoked by Harris began shortly after she became acting mayor in August 2012, when Andy Wurst, former mayor, resigned.

“I don’t know what caused all the incidents to take place,” Chaney told the Times-Enterprise.  “I don’t know what prompted it all.”

Chaney said the newspaper printed a church news item that identified her as Meigs mayor — not acting mayor — and as speaker at a church event. Harris attended a subsequent Meigs City Council meeting, cited the newspaper church item and pointed out that Chaney was acting mayor at the time, Chaney explained.

“It spiraled from there. … She was on a mission to get me from that point on,” Chaney said.

Chaney eventually decided to take legal action and was granted a pre-warrant hearing in Thomas County Magistrate Court. J.J. McMillan, a Colquitt County magistrate, presided after Thomas County Chief Magistrate Andy Seery recused himself in the case.

After hearing testimony at the Dec. 20 hearing, McMillan issued a warrant for Harris’ arrest. The warrant charges Harris with stalking.

Harris was taken into custody by the Thomas County Sheriff’s Office in the courtroom, processed at the Thomas County Jail and released on her own recognizance.

Harris declined comment when contacted by the Times-Enterprise.

The warrant says Harris is to stay away from Chaney and not to contact her in any way. She also is prohibited from entering Meigs City Hall premises until disposition of the case.

Harris is scheduled to be sworn in as Meigs mayor in January.

Chaney said she became so fearful of Harris that after the Dawson mayor was shot six times at his home, she began wearing a bullet-proof vest.

“I feel like my safety was being jeopardized at that time,” Chaney said.

Describing incidents leading up to the warrant, Chaney said she told Harris at a city council meeting that if she kept speaking out of turn, she would be removed.

Chaney said Harris' response was, “ ‘I’m gonna get you. I’m going to have you arrested. You can’t treat people like that.’ “

The threat was made in an open forum, the mayor pointed out.

Chaney said Harris continued to question her actions as mayor.

“I don’t know why. I don’t get it,” she said.

Chaney said she sought the warrant after Harris’ actions “became too much,” particularly after she posted items on Facebook that accused her of improprieties.

The mayor said Harris wrote to city council members, requesting that they “tie my hands to keep me from doing my job.”

Chaney tried to ignore Harris’ actions.

Said the mayor, “The more I ignored it, the more she came at me. It got to be like an intimidation-type thing.”

Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820.