Thomasville Times Enterprise

April 22, 2014

Meigs mayor: Disorderly conduct charge fabricated

Patti Dozier

THOMASVILLE — Meigs Mayor Linda Harris plans, who has been locked out of her city hall office, to fight a charge of disorderly conduct filed against her Saturday.

“It’s just fabricated, and it’s a big conflict of interest with the witnesses,” Harris told the Times-Enterprise Tuesday.Harris was arrested by Meigs police Saturday morning and released from the Thomas County Jail on a $500 bond issued in Thomas County Magistrate Court.

A special condition of the bond says Harris will stay away, directly, indirectly, by person, third party, telephone, e-mail, text message or any other correspondence with Marsha Demoga, city clerk/city manager, and her place of employment.

The mayor said Demoga has close relationships with some city council members and that they visit in each others’ homes.Harris does not think city staff and council members should have relationships.

The disorderly conduct charge is “fabricated to a ‘T,’ ” Harris said, adding that what Demoga said occurred could not have taken place. Alleged incidents could not have occurred Friday, because city hall was closed for Good Friday.

The mayor said she was working at city hall Friday. Harris explained that she goes to city hall weekly to ask questions and see what is going on in city government.

Demoga, she said, tries to provoke her.

“She cannot make me hostile or violent if that’s not my character,” the mayor said.

According to Harris, Demoga knows she has council backing.

“The councilmembers are my supervisors,” Demoga responded. “I answer to them.”

“The mayor makes statements often that are not true. She is responsible for her own actions,” Demoga said, in reference to Harris’ provocation comment.

Harris said she planned to terminate Demoga and city attorney Tommy Coleman, but the Albany lawyer made Demoga city manager, taking away the mayor’s power to fire both.

Coleman said Tuesday Meigs City Council approved an ordinance — as provided for in the city charter — to appoint a city manager and assigned powers previously in the mayor’s authority.

Coleman, a former longtime Albany mayor, said he had nothing to do with the ordinance.

The council would have to fire him and Demoga, Coleman explained.

The situation is not a legal problem, the attorney said, adding, “It’s how we approach each other.”

Coleman said that if Harris thinks the council acted illegally in approving the ordinance, she should take the matter to court.

Meanwhile, Harris said her attorney will subpoena a city hall video in defending her in the disorderly conduct case.

“The surveillance camera will tell it all,” Harris said. The video is not equipped with audio.

The mayor said her city computer and her office were taken away from her Monday. The lock to her office door was changed. The mayor’s office has a separate entrance at city hall.

“I can’t get into city hall at all,” she said.

The mayor said she “will keep a level head.”

She explained that she has built a good reputation and plans to retain the reputation.

According to police reports, there is a long history of conflict between Harris, Meigs City Council and city staff. The Saturday arrest resulted from incidents that allegedly involved Demoga.

On Wednesday, Meigs police officer John Ferrell was talking with Demoga at Meigs City Hall. While he was in the office, Harris entered to collect documents from behind the front desk.

Reports showed Harris became hostile toward Demoga.

Demoga informed the mayor she did not have authorization to enter the area she was demanding access to without the authority of the city council. Harris allegedly became hostile again, according to Demoga, who said Harris made threatening gestures and remarks toward her.

The threats consisted of “looming” excessively close to her over the desk, pointing her finger in Demoga’s face, speaking loudly and aggressively warning of some type of action against Demoga.

“You’ve got to be ladies and gentlemen,” Coleman told the Times-Enterprise Tuesday.

On Monday, Harris was to appear in State Court of Thomas County for disposition of a late 2013 stalking charge. The alleged victim in the case is Cynthia Chaney, the former Meigs mayor who Harris defeated by four votes in November 2013.

State Court Judge Mark Mitchell recused himself Monday in the stalking case, which was continued until it can be rescheduled with W.R. Folsom, a Valdosta State Court judge, presiding.

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