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Suit disputes McCorkles return
Citizen Anthony Mann files lawsuit against council
McCorkle photo
McCorkle - photo by FILE
    As of Wednesday afternoon, none of Statesboro's five City Councilmen had received a copy of a "declaratory judgment action" filed Tuesday evening against the Statesboro City Council.
    Statesboro city attorney Sam Brannen said Wednesday evening he had not examined the document at length either, but had reviewed it enough to say the city has a solid defense against the action.
    Anthony Mann filed the civil action at 5:05 p.m. Tuesday, and the case will be heard at an undetermined date by Bulloch County Superior Court Judge William T. Woodrum.
    Mann attended Tuesday's city council meeting, but did not seek to be placed on the agenda to speak. He did not return calls Wednesday seeking comment about reasons he filed the suit, which states the Statesboro City Council acted illegally in voting to reinstate Judy McCorkle as city clerk.
    City Manager Shane Haynes fired McCorkle last year after reporting at least four incidents of insubordination, following the council's directives to exercise his power to do so if he saw fit. However, during the Statesboro City Council's June 2 meeting, the council voted 3-2 to reinstate McCorkle, after she threatened to sue the city.
    The decision, opposed by council members Will Britt and Travis Chance, brought strong reaction from city employees and citizens demanding answers, wanting to know why councilmen reversed Haynes' decision.
    In his suit, Mann claims the action "is not authorized by law and is the subject of the controversy between parties to this case." He cites a portion of House Bill 1460, passed in 2000, that states "All department heads and superintendents under the supervision of the city manager shall be appointed by the city manager. The city manager may suspend or remove any employee under his or her supervision in accordance with personnel policy of resolution."
    Mann said city council's decision during an executive session to restore McCorkle to her former position and duties, especially in a meeting where Haynes was not present and has no input, was illegal.
    He said the council (specifically City Councilmen Joe Brannen, Tommy Blitch, Gary Lewis and Mayor Bill Hatcher) "relied on" a portion of the old city charter that was rendered moot after HB 1460 passed, placing the power to hire and fire city employees with the city manager, not the council.
    Britt said Wednesday the only positions the council has power to hire or fire are city manager, city attorney and municipal court judge.
    He said he was "dumbfounded" when the other councilmen voted to reinstate McCorkle.
    "At no time do I ever remember (former city manager) George Wood coming to us to ask us if he could hire or fire someone," he said. But Haynes did bring the issue to the council, which decided to let him make the decision as he had authority to do, he said.
    A month later, after having discussed the issues he had with McCorkle, specifically cases of insubordination, Haynes fired her, Britt said.
    This upset the mayor, he said. "He told (Haynes) not to do it."
    Then, when the council decided in an executive session to bring McCorkle back, "I was dumbfounded," he said. "The council made a decision I don't feel we had the power to make. I still don't see how that fits in with our charter."

Councilmen not yet served with law suit    
    Chance said he agreed with Mann's suit, although he had yet to receive a copy.
     "He's 100 percent correct," he said. "We, the council, had no right or authority to override Shane Haynes' decision. It was an unlawful act and I was glad I was able to voice my opinion and would take no part in an unlawful act ..."
    Councilman Gary Lewis said Wednesday afternoon he had not read the lawsuit. "They can bring it before the court then," he said after being briefed upon the suit's contents. "Let the court settle it."
    Councilman Joe Brannen had not seen the suit yet either as of Wednesday afternoon.
    “I would have to refer you to legal counsel,” he said, " as I am unfamiliar with the details. I'm not knowledgeable enough to talk with you on that."
    Councilman Tommy Blitch declined to comment as well. "I can't comment. I haven't seen it or read it," he said.
    Statesboro Mayor Bill Hatcher did not return messages left on his cell phone Wednesday seeking comment regarding the law suit.
    City Attorney Sam Brannen said the suit wasn't a typical law suit, but a "declaratory judgment action," which in essence means the plaintiff is seeking a judge to overturn an action by the council.
    Mann's suit states "that something the city has done is contrary and a judge can give an order to correct it."
    He said he feels confident in the city's defense.
    "I think we have a real good defense and will be filing an answer appropriately," he said.

Britt explains council actions
    Councilman Britt said the reason he brought up the issue surrounding McCorkle's pending reinstatement during Tuesday's council meeting was to get fellow councilmen's attention.
    During the scheduled meeting, after a motion had been made to approve an action, Britt abruptly changed the subject and demanded Lewis, Brannen and Blitch give answers to reasons why they voted to reinstate McCorkle.
    Explaining his reasons for broaching the topic in the manner he did, Britt said Wednesday, "I knew they would have to pay attention. Everybody wants to know - what is it you're not telling us?"
    Britt said he originally planned not to attend the meeting, but changed personal plans and arrived late at the meeting because he knew there would be strong public attendance as well as news media with cameras.
    "It was an opportunity for me to ask them in front of people. I knew cameras would be there. As an elected official, we need to answer (to the public)."
    He said he knew Hatcher would not be at the meeting and seized the opportunity to confront the others outside of the mayor's presence, stating he felt Hatcher "pulled all their strings" and influenced the way Lewis, Brannen and Blitch voted on issues.
    Britt said he suspects issues surrounding the city elections and "gross errors" Haynes has found in the city budget may have influenced some council members in their decision to bring McCorkle back. "There has to be a reason we're not being told, and I have to believe it has do with the elections."
     Chance was not at Tuesday's meeting due to employment demands, but said he viewed the portion of the meeting shown on the Statesboro Herald web site (
    The video segment "speaks volumes," he said. "It has been two weeks (since the council voted to bring McCorkle back) and they still have not come up with a legitimate comment for the paper or the public," he said. "It's been two weeks and they still can't give a straight answer to the public."
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