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County sued by Magistrate Judge

Magistrate Judge Marcia Callaway-Ingram filed a lawsuit against Pike County, county manager Bill Sawyer and all five commissioners Aug. 1 claiming recent personnel and salary reductions violate the Georgia Constitution. The lawsuit also claims the county interfered with the independent operation of the court by withholding applications for vacancies. ”The county is liable for the unlawful official acts carried out by the members of its board of commissioners in furtherance of the county’s business,’ reads the lawsuit in part. ‘Sawyer has, at the instruction of the board, improperly exerted control over the personnel of the magistrate court by filtering applications for qualified candidates or vacant positions in the magistrate court. Defendants Doug Mangham, Carol Bass, Tamra Jarrett, Tommy Powers and Don Collins are members of the BOC and, in that capacity, were the final decision-makers with regard to the unlawful reductions in the plaintiff’s salary.’ Board members held a nearly two-hour executive session at the Aug. 10 meeting to discuss pending litigation from the magistrate court. Commissioners voted to combine magistrate and probate courts in February by a 3-2 vote, with Jarrett and Collins opposing. The county requested Rep. Billy Maddox introduce legislation at Congress to combine magistrate and probate courts. Rep. Maddox responded by letter that Georgia law dictates no elected office can be dissolved nor the term of office shortened unless approved by referendum. He suggested commissioners provide more information about the combined courts’ staffing and vote on the matter again in an attempt to unanimously approve the combination of courts and show solidarity on the issue. A special called meeting is set for Tuesday, Aug. 16 at 4 p.m. to approve or deny combination of the courts.

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