History of Meigs, Ga. government plays out like a soap opera over a decade

Meigs City Council Drama Timeline

The following timeline was compiled from articles in the archives of the Thomasville Times-Enterprise, including original reporting by Patti Dozier and Karen Murphy.

December 2005 – Tension between Jimmy Layton and then-council member Cheryl Kicklighter-Hall and mayor-elect Harold Cook. Kicklighter-Hall said the council has received complaints of Layton being rude to citizens. At the time, Layton is serving as police chief, city manager and city public works director. Kicklighter-Hall’s husband, Ralph Hall Jr., was the assistant police chief until 2003 but was either fired or resigned under Layton.

October 2006 – Harold Cook resigns as mayor amid allegations that City of Meigs officials misused funds generated by a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. Citizen Andrew Wurst, who would later run for City Council, presented documents showing where Cook and the city clerk had transferred money from the SPLOST account to the town’s general fund account. Wurst filed a complaint and request for investigation by the district attorney in Thomasville.

October 2006 – At a council meeting, Police Chief Jimmy Layton said he is not satisifed with the work of the Thomas County / Thomasville Narcotics and Vice division and said they did not do work in Meigs to combat an illegal drug problem. The Thomas County sheriff, Carlton Powell, said he will not stand idly by and become a whipping boy, nor will he tolerate accusations that the agency he has headed for more than three decades is to blame for a Thomas County town’s drug problems.

October 2007 – After being questioned by citizen Diane Faircloth, Mayor Annie Lovejoy said $97,000 in SPLOST revenue was spent for emergency repairs to the city of Meigs well. The council did not vote on that expense, Lovejoy said. $30,000 of that was repaid. The assistant ADA in Thomasville said his office was still looking into whether there was a misuse of public money.

November 2007 – After an article in the Thomasville Times-Enterprise portrayed a negative picture of the relationship between Meigs citizens and the city government, citizens showed up at the city council to voice complaints. Sonny Nixon expressed concerns about a $5 fee charged when someone paying a water bill at Meigs City Hall does not present their water bill at the time of payment. Lovejoy said the fee was set because the process of retrieving bill information was time-consuming. Jimmy Layton said he was involved in acquiring the utility bill software.

At the same meeting, when Diane Faircloth was questioning about repayment of the SPLOST money transferred to the town’s general fund, Police Chief Layton called for order and said, “The mayor will recognize you, or you will be removed out the door. They’re the boss, people.”

December 2007 – Council member Larry Nicholson voted no on the town’s annual budget, saying he questioned whether the city had enough revenue coming in to meet expenses. The $514,751 budget for 2008 includes a projected $318,461 from tax revenue.The budget also contained 5 percent raises for city employees.

Andrew Wurst said Council Member June Layton, who is the wife of the police chief, should abstain from voting because her husband was a city employee and she was voting on his salary.

January 2008 – The City of Meigs rehired all city employees for the 2008 year. Council Member June Layton abstained from voting on her husband’s re-appointment as police chief and public works director.

February 2008Three Meigs citizens told the council about incidents involving the employee, Jimmy Layton, Meigs police chief and public works superintendent. Council members ignored two of the comments and said there is nothing they could do about the third. Mayor Annie Doris Lovejoy suggested the citizens resolve the issue with Layton himself or take the matter before a judge. A complaint was voiced Monday about rude city hall employees and city hall closing prior to posted hours. Employees later apologized.

November 2009 – Concerned citizen Andrew Wurst is elected mayor-elect, defeating council member June Layton in the mayoral election. The vote was 90 for Wurst to 63 for Layton. It was the first time Wurst was successful in three tries running for Mayor.

December 2009 – Jimmy Layton resigns as police chief. Mayor Wurst complained that Layton’s short notice did not allow the council enough time to get a replacement in place before the start of the year. Meigs only had one other police officer, meaning police protection had to be temporarily shared by the Sheriff’s departments of Mitchell and Thomas counties.

July 2010 – Meigs residents are upset after Mayor Andrew Wurst announces a plan for a proposed annexation of more road frontage leading into Meigs into the city limits. The proposed annexation included 85 properties. However, many residents were concerned the annexation was being done to increase the city’s tax revenue. One of the citizens voicing dissent was former police chief Jimmy Layton.

May 2010 – New Police Chief Tom Close asks the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Thomasville office to help with evidence that appears to be missing and improperly stored at the Meigs Police Department. Close said the former Meigs PD evidence room was covered in evidence, including marijuana in bags behind cabinets and cocaine in bags on the floor. Marked evidence bags had been opened, and drugs and money were missing.

August 2012 – Andrew Wurst resigns as mayor of Meigs, after indicating he had bought property outside Meigs and was moving out of city limits. Cynthia Chaney served as mayor pro tempore.

December 2012 – The Thomas County Sheriff’s Office requested the Georgia Bureau of Investigation launch two separate inquiries into alleged impropriety in Meigs government. The first inquiry concerned former Meigs police chief Tom Close and Andy Wurst, and had to do with potentially misappropriated city funds and city equipment. The 2nd inquiry had to do with a Meigs city employee telling the Meigs City Council that a council member was handling the city’s general fund inappropriately. The council member in question, Cynthia Chaney, said the allegations were unfounded.

January 2012 – Chris Luckey appointed Meigs’ new police chief, after former chief Tom Close resigned. Close said he had been told the city could not afford his $43,000 salary and believed he was in danger of being fired by Mayor Wurst. Close was also commuting every day from McDonough, Ga., a 6.5-hour daily commute.

January 2012 – Council Member Orville Creager resigns, saying he was tired of arguing and bickering between Meigs city officials.

March 2013 – Cynthia Chaney, who had previously served as acting mayor since August 2012 following the resignation of Andy Wurst, wins a special election to fill the remainder of Wurst’s term, which ended Dec. 31, 2013.

November 2013 – In the general election for a new four-year term as mayor of Meigs, Linda Harris defeats Cynthia Chaney by 4 votes.

December 2013 – Mayor -elect Harris is arrested and charged with stalking and banned from Meigs City Hall after an incident involving Chaney, who was still acting mayor at the time. Chaney said she believed Harris was upset because a newspaper event listing mistakenly identified Chaney as mayor and not specifically “acting mayor,” something Harris pointed out at a Meigs City Council meeting. Harris allegedly threatened Chaney at the council meeting and on Facebook.

January 2014 – Linda Harris was sworn in as mayor of Meigs at the second City Council meeting of 2014. However, Council members voted 3-1 to remove Harris as mayor, an action that was later overturned. Two previous resolutions passed by the council supposedly provided grounds on which Harris should not be mayor, based on “legal, ethical and moral standards.”

January 2014 – Meigs City Attorney Tommy Coleman said Tuesday Linda Harris is the Thomas County town’s mayor, despite city council action to remove her. According to Coleman, the city’s charter requires two-thirds of the 7-member counsel—or 5 people—to vote in favor of removing the mayor. Therefore, a 3-1 vote to remove Harris as mayor was not sufficient.

January 2014 – Meigs Police Chief Chris Luckey resigns, saying he did so as soon as Mayor Linda Harris walked into City Hall. Luckey said he resigned because of a “hostile work enviroment.” Luckey began working as a Meigs police officer in June 2010 and had been the chief since 2012.

April 2014 – Two days before Mayor Linda Harris was to appear in court on a stalking charge, she was arrested again by Meigs police and charged with disorderly conduct. The charge stemmed from a series of incidents involving Harris and Meigs City Clerk Marsha Demoga. Reports stated that Harris allegedly became hostile toward Demoga inside Meigs City Hall on more than one occasion over a period of several days, including one incident documented by a Meigs police officer. The final confrontation happened when Harris demanded to access a secured portion of City Hall and Demoga said she could not enter the secure area without the city council’s permission. Demoga accused Harris of making threats to her and her family.

April 2014 – Harris makes a statement that she plans to terminate Demoga, as well as city attorney Tommy Coleman. The Meigs City Council passes a motion stripping mayoral powers from Harris. Demoga is appointed city manager. Harris said her city computer and her office at city hall were taken away from her after she was arrested, and the locks to her office were changed.

January 2015 – Meigs City Council member Stephanie Battle is arrested after a brawl at City Hall. Battle was charged with criminal trespass. City Attorney Tommy Coleman said the dispute began after Mayor Linda Harris wanted to remove bank statements and other documents from City Hall. When the city manager refused, Battle attempted to intervene on the mayor’s behalf. The Meigs police chief asked Battle to leave several times, and when she refused, he arrested her.

2015 – Charges of stalking and disorderly conduct against Harris are later dismissed.

March 2015 – Former Meigs police chief and public works superintendent Jimmy Layton is elected to the Meigs City Council in a special election to replatce Tia Kilpatrick, who resigned. Layton received 97 votes to just 27 votes for Linda Tucker.

June 2015 – Meigs City Manager Sid Perry talks about some changes that have been made to Meigs’ government to make it operate more smoothly. For the previous 20 years, Meigs had not charged for the first 2,000 gallons of water and sewer used, but recently began doing so. That changed generated $60,000 in annual revenue for the city. Additionally, Perry and the Meigs City Council reduced the town’s budget by $50,000 per year, by getting better rates for health care insurance and changing phone and Internet providers. The police presence in Meigs was also getting better, and in June, Meigs had a police chief and three officers.

June 2015 – Harris is at odds with City Manager Sid Perry, saying the council is listening more to the city manager than to her. Harris said she believes Meigs’ charter was set up to have a “strong mayor with a limited council.” The Thomasville Times-Enterprise reports that lawsuits filed against the city of Meigs due to Harris’ actions have cost the city more than $200,000 to settle.

September 2015 – A former Meigs police chief who was fired in March 2014 was appointed by the Meigs City Council to fill a vacant city council seat. Edward “Blue” Rauls was selected by the council over Laurie White, Meigs’ only restaurant owner, who also vied for the seat. Rauls succeeded Chris Luckey as police chief in January 2014, only to be fired in March 2014 by former city manager Marsha Demoga.

In the vote to appoint Rauls to the city council, two council members, Dorothy Wimes and Lizzy Battle, abstained from the vote. Lizzy Battle said she abstained from the vote because she wanted to see how the November 2015 general election went first.”

October 2015:

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