On Wednesday, January 14, District 26 State Senator David Lucas proposed legislation which would amend the City of Gordon’s charter in an effort to prevent groups from having the power to remove an elected official from office without a court’s approval. The city of Gordon–located in nearby Wilkinson County– is approximately thirty minutes east of Macon, but it is also a place where the city’s first African-American and woman mayor, Mary Ann Whipple Lue, is facing a conservative backlash after defeating a longtime incumbent mayor, Kenneth Turner. Lue made history on November 5, 2013 and had won 334 to 294– the margin was a razor thin thirty votes.
Lucas, who represents seven counties including Wilkinson in the Georgia General Assembly said the following to WMGT-TV about the city of Gordon: “Let them look at the policies and take the Gordon charter and look at what’s the best policy dealing with the model charter that the Georgia Municipal Association has.”
Subsequently, the year-long legal battle waged by the Concerned Citizens of Gordon against Lue will have its case go before the Georgia Supreme Court on Tuesday, January 20. For the last several months, a local Superior Court judge based out of Swainsboro had made judgments in the case which curtailed Lue’s mayoral powers and had temporarily suspended her from office last summer. Whipple-Lue’s lawyer, Wayne Kendall has commented that the judge had no authority to suspend her or to order those restrictions. He says Judge Robert Reeves made several other errors in handling the case.
The city of Gordon has a majority-minority population with a plurality of African-Americans (49.7%). However, Lue had faced spirited opposition the moment the election results were certified by the Secretary of State. Local conservatives and Dixiecrats who had been used to controlling all aspects of this rural town of 2,000 began mounting legal challenges in order to keep Lue from taking office. Mayors have certain executive powers outlined in a city’s charter and one example is choosing a new police chief.
The prospect of the first African-American mayor exerting her powers and making decisions after being elected didn’t sit well with some of the ‘appointed’ members of Gordon city government and local citizens who had supported and/or voted for Kenneth Turner. Just a few weeks after Lue was sworn-in, the city clerk, deputy clerk, police chief and superintendent who had served previously under Turner had filed complaints with the Georgia Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in late January 2014 against Lue.