Special to SEGAZINE
The Brantley Enterprise announced today that well-known Waynesville attorney Joseph Segui will represent the newspaper in its lawsuit against the county after officials bungled the appointment of the legal organ for 2014.
“What’s fair is fair and no reasonable person would accuse the county of fairness with what has happened to The Brantley Enterprise,” Segui said this week.
“The count was prompted to as recently s November to do what was required to change the legals. The failure to do those things ultimately reflects poorly on the officials responsible and their neglect has caused actionable harm to my client,” he added.
The three officials who decide which newspaper would be named the legal include probate court judge Johnnie Crews, sheriff Jack Whisenant, and clerk of court Cindy Crews.
The three officers first named the Enterprise the legal organ Dec. 23 and sent notification to the secretary of state’s office immediately thereafter.
But Brantley Express publisher Mittie Vaughan refused to run the public notice of the change saying that the county had missed the Jan. 1 deadline by which the notice had to be published.
The requirement is designed to allow anyone using the current legal organ to make arrangements to send notices to the new organ.
After a flurry f meetings with Vaughan and her attorney Phillip Golub of Blackshear, the three constitution officers reversed themselves this week, claiming the law was “vague.”
But they were warned in print and in a meeting held in November among the county officials and both newspapers that they were required by law to publish the notice four times in the current legal organ if their intent was to change the legal organ.
But officials did not seem too concerned about the requirement.
“We make the decision,” Whisenant said, adding that people he had spoken with said the law was vague and he and the other two officers could pretty much do what they wanted without fear of legal repercussions.
But after the last meeting between the county and the Express, Whisenant admitted he was wrong, and said that judges he conferred with had told him the action taken would not stand up in court.
The three officers asked that both newspapers publish a new notice explaining the error and reinstating the Express as legal organ.
The Enterprise will not publish the notice, according to publisher Ken Buchanan.
“This monumental error clearly shows the pompousness of county officials who remain convinced that they are above the law. They are not, and it has been one of our main goals over the past 20 years to remove those leaders who practice the arrogance of ignorance.”
It was about five years ago the Enterprise reported on the arrest of the grandson of Johnnie Crews for the rape of a high school student who had been plied with alcohol at a party which took place the Crews family compound in Hickox — and the attempted coverup that followed by former sheriff Robert Thomas and the entire sheriff’s office.
Attempts to report the story by two area daily newspapers were reportedly thwarted by the coverup, and one investigator with the sherif’s office told the Enterprise it would never get that incident report either.
The department claimed it would not release the reports because the investigation was still going on, but the Georgia Open Records Act clearly requires that initial incident reports and arrest reports are public record immediately about filing and requests for them cannot be denied because the investigation is ongoing.
After denying the request for those documents and in the threat of legal action by the newspaper, the sheriff’s office apparently consulted with an attorney and released the records.
The newspaper reported on both the rape and the coverup.
And has not since been named the legal organ.
That’s because the sheriff and the judge — and former clerk of court Anthony Ham — voted no that year and each year since.
Information that came out during the November meeting indicated that the current clerk of court also voted against the Enterprise each year she has been in office.
But it was she who called that meeting and said in it that she was tired of being harassed on the street by those who felt the county had treated the Enterprise unfairly, adding that it was time to move on and put “revenge” behind us.
And as for the judge’s grandson, he has been in out of alcohol and drug rehab centers, has been arrested several times for drug possession and once for intent to distribute.
As far as the Enterprise can find, he has not spent a day in jail for his crime.
In the meantime as well, another of the judge’s grandsons was charged in an attempt to steal outdoor furniture from a Nahunta hardware store which was botched we his vehicle got suck in a ditch.
After hiding the trailer in a stand of trees nearby, that grandson was assisted in getting his truck out of the ditch behind the hardware store by Brantley County Sheriff’s Office investigator John Simpson, who apparently did not question why he was there in the wee hours of the morning.
And the judge more recently reportedly intervened in a domestic disturbance among other family members and ordered a deputy who responded to make no arrests after a family member called the huge and handed the phone to the deputy.