2007-07-04 / Front Page

Suit filed to remove commissioner

A civil lawsuit has been filed in Miller County Superior Court seeking to remove a county commissioner from office. The court filing alleges that a property transaction involving Frankie Phillips, Union Investment Company, Inc. and Miller County was "a scheme in which defendant (Phillips) illegally and unethically transacted business with Miller County utilizing Union as her agent and intermediary." The property at issue is 179 South Cuthbert Street in Colquitt, which is the current County Commissioner's office and also known as the Miller County Courthouse Annex.

The case was filed last Friday by Bobby E. Richardson, Sr., as Plaintiff, represented by attorney William Douglas Hall of Blakely. Only one plaintiff is required, but a number of citizens stand behind this suit against Phillips. Commissioner Phillips is the sole defendant, as neither Union or Miller County are named as a defendants. The Georgia Secretary of State's website identifies Union Investment Company, Inc. as a Georgia, for-profit corporation with G. C. Jinks, Jr. as it's sole officer and registered agent. Jinks is a Colquitt philanthropist and former banker who now represents District Four on the Miller County Board of Commissioners.

According to the complaint, the following events occurred. On October 2, 2000, Phillips sold the property to Union for $53,759.42, partly in cash and with Union assuming the balance of Phillips' promissory note to Hilda Grow, from whom Phillips had bought the property in 1995. Two days later, on October 4, 2000, Union leased the property to Miller County with annual rent payments and due dates that matched the note from Phillips to Grow. The lease states: "the purpose of this lease is to facilitate a gift of the Premises to Miller County, Georgia, and that this lease is a device to avoid a prepayment penalty to Hilda Grow, who holds a promissory note secured by a security deed on the Premises." The lease goes on to provide that "Tenant (Miller County) shall pay the promissory note to Hilda Grow through these annual payments until the prepayment penalty expires on July 1, 2005, at which time the balance of the debt will be paid in full by the Ruth T. Jinks Foundation, Inc. by a separate gift." When the debt is paid in full, Union will deed the property to the county. The lease concludes by stating: "Both parties further acknowledge that ample funding for the aforementioned debt service for which (Miller County) is responsible has been provided in the form of a gift or gifts from the Ruth T. Jinks Foundation, Inc., Colquitt, Georgia." Union conveyed the property to Miller County on January 5, 2006.

The complaint alleges that as a result of the transaction between Phillips, Union and Miller County, Phillips "had her debt to Grow paid in full, and in addition thereto, she received approximately $16,000.00 in cash assets." The complaint claims that Phillips violated the ethical standards for commissioners set forth in the county's charter "by being financially interested in a contract to which the County was a party." The plaintiff asks the court to remove Phillips from office, to declare the property transaction illegal, to disgorge Phillips from the benefits of the transaction, and to refer the complaint "to the appropriate District Attorney for investigation and the taking of such further action as may be deemed appropriate under the criminal laws of the State of Georgia".

According to the court summons, Phillips has thirty days in which to answer the complaint.

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