October 22-- The mayor of Uvalda is facing obstruction of justice charges following a contentious city council meeting last week.
Uvalda Police Chief Lewis Smith filed the charges against Mayor Paul Bridges because the mayor refused to leave the meeting when directed to do so by the chief at the request of the city council. Officials say Councilman Jeff Dopson wanted the council to meet in executive session to discuss ongoing problems with Mayor Bridges.
Earlier this year the council voted to strip away the Mayor's authority to oversee city operations and most recently instructed city attorney Tom Everett not to respond to requests for legal advice from Mayor Bridges.
Ironically, a representative from the Georgia Municipal Association was at the meeting to brief the mayor and council on Georgia's new open meetings and open records act. Pam Helton says she advised the mayor to leave because the council could take no votes in executive session. She says she's unsure if it's legal for the council to meet in executive session without the mayor because, "I'm not sure this has ever happened before." Since Mayor Bridges refused to leave, the executive session never occurred.
Also present at the meeting was Graham Mayor Bob Fogarty who asked Mayor Bridges to cease making racism charges against Chief Smith who is also a parttime police officer in Graham. Fogarty says a Graham citizen complained that Bridges called her and alleged Smith gives more tickets to Hispanics and blacks than to others. Graham Police Chief Kenneth Flowers accompanied Mayor Fogarty to Uvalda and said a count of tickets issued in Graham does not support Mayor Bridges' accusations.
Chief Smith says he is considering filing a civil slander suit against Mayor Bridges. The mayor, meanwhile, reported to the Montgomery County Sheriff's office and posted a $1,500 bond in the obstruction case.