THOMASVILLE — Mayor Greg Hobbs has been indicted on six counts in connection with the defendant accusing City of Thomasville employees of forging his signature on a payroll document.
Hobbs was indicted on two counts of making false statement, three counts of violation of oath of office and one count of false report of a crime.
A grand jury handed down the indictment Thursday morning, and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.
Hobbs was booked into the Thomas County Jail at 10:45 a.m. and released on his own recognizance, said Thomas County Sheriff's Office Senior Capt. Ron James, jail administrator.
The Thomasville regional office of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was asked by the Thomas County district attorney's office on June 4, 2018, to initiate an investigation into financial documents on which Hobbs' signature allegedly had been forged.
Interviews were conducted with city employees identified as possibly being involved. Original documents were sent to the FBI crime lab for comparison and analysis, according to Jamy Steinberg, special agent in charge at the Thomasville GBI office.
Results provided by the FBI were provided to Southern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Brad Shealy, who presented the case to the Thomas County grand jury on Monday. GBI Special Agent Matt Marchant was the prosecutor.
Kha McDonald, the city human resources director and assistant city manager, and Vicky Bryson, executive administrative assistant to the city manager, filed a lawsuit against Hobbs after they were interviewed by the GBI in connection with Hobbs' forgery claim. McDonald was interim city manager at the time of the forgery accusation. The civil damage suit is pending.
“My clients, Kha McDonald and Vicky Bryson, are both relieved and saddened by the news of the mayor's indictments today," Robert D. Howell, the women's Moultrie attorney, said Thursday. "They are obviously pleased to be vindicated as they have known from the beginning, of course, that they did not forge the mayor's signature on any document and that his accusations to the contrary were completely false.
"At the same time, they are saddened by this development as my clients truly love the City of Thomasville and the great people they work with to make it run. My clients look forward to the continued pursuit of their civil claims against (Mayor) Hobbs and the city for the harm this has caused them. While today's events are seen by them as a big step in the right direction, it does not change the fact that they were falsely and publicly accused of something which they did not do, and they are having to live with effects of that.”
Hobbs' did not respond to a request for a comment.
Sanders is researching whether there are issues with respect to Hobbs continuing to serve as mayor. His current two-year mayoral term ends in January 2020.
The city attorney does not think the indictment would prevent Hobbs from continuing to serve as mayor.
It is Sanders' understanding the city will not pay Hobbs' attorney fees in the indictment case because it is a criminal matter. The city's insurer is paying the mayor's attorneys fees in three civil suits.
In Thomasville's council/manager form of government, the Hobbs indictment should not change city operations, City Manager Alan Carson said.
"Just because he's been indicted, you're still considered innocent until proven guilty," Carson said. "We'll continue on today, just as we did yesterday and will tomorrow."
Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820