Thomasville city council rejects Pinetree lawsuit settlement

Thomasville residents are suing the city of Thomasville over a street renovation project that...
Thomasville residents are suing the city of Thomasville over a street renovation project that they say the city council members approved for their own self-interests.(WCTV)
Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 8:09 PM EDT
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THOMASVILLE, Ga. (WCTV) - The legal fight continues in Thomasville as city council members have voted ‘no’ on accepting a settlement to end a lawsuit filed against the city.

Back in 2018, it was alleged by several Thomasville residents that city council members violated the open meetings law during the voting process regarding the South Pinetree project. A possible agreement was on the table this week.

A meeting was held on Monday to potentially agree on the settlement, but in the end it was not approved.

The settlement consisted of a payout of $110,000 in legal fees, and a request to implement an open records policy.

However, some city council members say they believe agreeing to the asked amount would actually be an abuse of power.

“We requested public documents, public records, seeking the communications between council members on these very very important public issues and what we found was that we were getting stonewalled,” said the plaintiff’s lawyer Chris Cohilas.

Improvements to South Pinetree Boulevard approved back in 2018 sparked controversy throughout the Thomasville community. Several residents claimed in a council meeting that the push to widen the two-lane road to a three lane road was in the interest of councilmembers, and not the residents.

The approval prompted a lawsuit against the city and two councilmembers: Mayor Greg Hobbs and councilman David Hufstetler.

Years later, the conflict still has not been settled.

“There was not any substantial information that would justify a settlement. Especially a settlement to that extent,” said councilwoman Wanda Warren.

On Monday, the Cohilas said he thought the meeting called by the council would be a step toward ending the litigation.

“Apparently, the city wants to continue to litigate which is fine with us,” said Cohilas.

According to Cohilas, councilmember Wanda Warren initially seconded the motion to move forward with the settlement, but then claimed she changed her position on the matter at the last minute.

“There was a certain amount of legal fees that they wanted to be reimbursed, but the law states that those legal fees should be reasonable according to the open records request act, and I did not feel that those legal fees were reasonable,” explained Warren.

Cohilas said that since the council members could not come to an agreement, he and his clients are prepared to take the lawsuit to court. He believes they have a good chance at winning.

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