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Friday, February 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Former Ga. Mayor Says Successor Defamed Him

(CN) - The new administration of a small city on the Georgia/Alabama border defamed a former mayor by falsely claiming his budgets were invalid, he kept city records in an unsecured shed, and he deceived citizens about the cost of a new administration building, the aggrieved ex-official claims.

Former Mayor Rick Ford sued the City of Temple and city officials, including his successor Lester Harmon, in Carroll County, Ga. Superior Court. He claims libel, slander and false light invasion of privacy.

Ford says Harmon accused his administration last year of frivolous record keeping involving an unsecured shed, but the former mayor rebuts those claims.

"The records referred to by the defendants were placed there by previous administrations, not Rick Ford's administration," the complaint states. "Plaintiff Rick Ford's administration kept records in City Hall as well as on the computers as all documents were backed up. These statements regarding record keeping were also published in the Star [newspaper]."

Harmon and two other defendants, Penny Ransom and Howard Walden, were last sworn in Jan. 6, 2014, according to the complaint.

A month later, Ransom declared at a city council meeting that Ford's previous two budgets were invalid, which was also published in the local newspaper, according to Ford's lawsuit. He says Harmon backed up Ransom's allegedly false statement about the budgets.

"On or about February 21, 2014, defendant Lester Harmon stated on Fox 5 News that the previous administration failed to pass a legal budget," the complaint states. "Defendant Mayor Lester Harmon continues to make such libelous and slanderous statements over and over, time and time again with no retractions when there is evidence clearly to the contrary."

At a March 2014 city council meeting, Harmon further claimed that Ford deceived citizens as to the cost of a $1.4 million administration building, which the former mayor says was done with the malicious intent to discredit him.

Ford alleges that two other defendants, Linda Walden and Deborah McIntosh, claimed that land for the new administration building was purchased illegally, but Ford claims in his lawsuit that is untrue.

"Rick Ford on or about March 2006 had a city council meeting in where the council and Rick Ford went into executive session and discussed and approved the purchase of said property," the lawsuit states.

The former mayor says the contract to build the $1.4 million administration facility was approved unanimously by the city council Nov. 4, 2013.

"The defendants, by their statements regarding the plaintiff...having been placed in newspapers, aired on television, recorded in the minutes available to the public, and on social media has exposed the plaintiff Rick Ford to public hatred, contempt, and/or ridicule," the lawsuit states.

The city officials' allegations imply that Ford has committed a crime and that places him in a false light in the public eye, according to the complaint.

Ford seeks punitive damages, attorney fees and a formal apology. He is represented by Lisa Johnson of Dallas, Ga.

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