Horgan recall effort dies in court

Fri, 08/28/2009 - 10:41am
By: John Munford

The effort to remove Fayette County Commissioner Robert Horgan from office was dealt a legal death blow in LaGrange this morning.

Superior Court Judge A. Quillian Baldwin ruled that Horgan’s May 23 arrest for possession of marijuana was not connected to his position in office and therefore the recall petition was insufficient.

That ruling officially kills the recall effort undertaken by Robert Ross of Peachtree City and a committee that was formed to recall Horgan from office.

But Horgan's political career is not out of the woods yet. Judge Baldwin suggested that when the criminal case goes forward, Horgan could be forced to resign as a condition of his probation.

Baldwin said he has required a previous elected official to do so after they were found guilty of a felony charge.

“I think they can do that and I don’t think there’s anything he can do about it,” Baldwin said.

Horgan’s arrest by a Fayette County Sheriff’s Deputy happened after he was pulled over for an expired tag on a Saturday evening on his way home from Lowe’s, the court noted. There was no evidence entered at Friday’s hearing that suggested Horgan was conducting any county business prior to the time he was pulled over.

Ross has 10 days to decide whether to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Georgia. He said after the hearing that he will decide later whether to do so.

Horgan said after the hearing that he felt “a lot better” and was “a little relieved” about the outcome because it saved county taxpayers the cost of a recall election. If the recall were to be approved, it would actually cost the taxpayers two elections, as a separate election would have been required to replace Horgan.

A court date has not been set for the criminal case against Horgan, which includes the misdemeanor marijuana possession charge and also the expired tag charge.

During today’s hearing, Horgan’s attorney Christy Jindra argued that Horgan is not alleged to have committed any criminal act directly related to his office.

“Mr. Horgan has not stolen any money, has not misappropriated anything, and has not done anything wrong at any of the meetings,” Jindra said.

Jindra noted that Horgan was not pulled over for driving erratically nor was he charged with DUI.

Former county attorney Dennis Davenport, representing Ross, said there is a connection between Horgan’s arrest and his office as county commissioner.

“I represent the issue of eroding the trust of the citizens of Fayette County is apparent,” Davenport said. Later in the hearing, Davenport asked, “Can the public be confident that the commissioner is making decisions unimpeded by illegal drugs?”

Davenport also argued that the arrest was connected to Horgan’s duty as a commissioner because of his status in the community as an elected official.

“They lose that individual status by choosing to put themselves in the public arena the way they did,” Davenport said.

Judge Baldwin pointed out that Georgia law is clear that elected officials who commit felonies can be subject to removal from office. But when the offense is a misdemeanor there is no such direction, he noted.

Though it did not sustain the recall effort, Baldwin also ruled that Horgan clearly violated the state’s code of ethics by possessing marijuana. Judge Baldwin also ruled that the marijuana possession did not constitute a violation of Horgan’s oath of office because the oath did not require Horgan to swear he would not commit any crimes.

The oath, Baldwin said, requires Horgan to uphold the state and U.S. constitutions, but those statutes are separate from criminal law.

After the hearing, recall supporter and former county commissioner Greg Dunn said he felt the arrest has plenty to do with Horgan’s office since the county commission funds the sheriff’s department and its drug task force. Since Horgan allegedly acquired the marijuana from the type of person the task force is looking to arrest “I see a connection,” Dunn said.

Ross noted after the hearing that the public’s trust in Horgan will come into play this November as county voters will decide whether or not to approve a new one percent sales tax.

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Submitted by 30YearResident on Mon, 08/31/2009 - 12:07pm.

Your logical decision has saved this county nearly $200,000 which we can't afford right now.

Apparently there are some that don't mind the county spending this large amount of taxpayers dollars to hold an unneeded special election.

But I do!!

While I do not condone Mr. Horgans personal decisions, he and his family will have to suffer the consequences in the courts, public opinion, his professional life and future in politics.

Let it go, he won't be running again... save us taxpayers the time and EXPENSE!

Submitted by Save Fayette on Sun, 08/30/2009 - 1:17pm.

Once again!!!
Dennis Davenport (and I am sure McNalley was helping too) looses yet another court case. Boss hog and group had other Reasons to recall Horgan. They where wanting to get there two time looser Greg Dunn Back in the commission. Did anyone notice that Sheriff looser Dave Simons had his wife In the fight to get Horgan recalled. Her name is in the loosing attorney’s brief. This whole group that Boss Hog supported in the last election had a whole lot of other reasons to recall Horgan. The more I read about this, the clearer this gets!!!

suggarfoot's picture
Submitted by suggarfoot on Sat, 08/29/2009 - 7:30pm.

Anytime a politician uses taxpayers money to stop a recall effort by the taxpayers themselves ..IT IS WRONG!!!

If you care about the will of the people, you don't get a lawyer, you let it go forward. If voters are willing to spend their money to have it put of the ballet, you should let them. If the majority vote for it, it was the right thing to do, if it wasn't, it would die a natural death on the vine. By hiring a lawyer and stopping them, you have lost my respect.

If you are representing the people, you should let them speak, you have silenced them instead.

When I see this, I can't help but think that Mr Horgan may have other interest than the will of the people. That really makes me shudder when you think of all the money the special interest groups, like developers put out there. And lets face it, when has Mr Horgan, or any of the other politicians tried to stop that?

This stinks!

DC LobDaHill's picture
Submitted by DC LobDaHill on Fri, 08/28/2009 - 10:20pm.

I normally sit back and laugh when reading these comments. Today I must say something.

I have known Robert Horgan since he was 16 years old. I have also personally known the Fayette County elected officials over the past 35 years including those from the Sherrif's Office.

I deal with the "Elite" elected officials of this country day in and day out. The things I am aware of that you don't know, would surprise you and probably just about scare you to death. It just amazes me that any one of you can say the things you are saying about these people.

I am not the best Christian example but I do know one thing for sure. The Bible I was raised on states that "Ye without SIN may cast the first stone". I would bet that there are some type of skeletons in that closet of yours.

I know not one public official in office today that is perfect by no means. They all have skeletons and some have expunged there background so no one can dig it up.

My suggestion is that if you want to change something without costing us taxpayers extra money, then get off your duff and get involved with something worth while. The working man/woman is out there trying to survive on little or nothing and have rights too. Stop being foolish and start looking for something legitimate to be involved in... like the Future of Our Children. Set a better example by showing them the right way to govern.

Submitted by PTC Observer on Sat, 08/29/2009 - 5:55am.

If you know the folks over at the Sherriff’s Office, why don't you have them check out Horgan's dealer? Better yet why don't you do something civic minded and ask Horgan himself who his dealer is, since you have known him so long I am certain he will tell you. After all he is an upstanding guy. Then maybe YOU can get some of the illegal drugs out of this county.

To cloak your apparent acceptance of illegal drug use in the guise of "cost to taxpayers" is a bit disingenuous. I for one would welcome the cost of a special election to remove a representative who supports illegal activities and through that act supports the murder of police officers nationwide.

The courts have spoken, I suppose we will just have to wait until the next election to get rid of him, and suffer with the fact that we have a man of very poor judgment acting as our commissioner.

To cloak your apparent acceptance of illegal drug use in the guise of "cost to taxpayers" is a bit disengious.

Your last suggestion would be better directed to Mr. Horgan, "stop being foolish and start looking for something legitimate to be involved in...like the Future of Our Children. Set a better example by showing them the right way to govern."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Submitted by Spyglass on Sat, 08/29/2009 - 6:52am.

he grows his own. I draw no difference between POT and ALCOHOL. Actually, other than our Nanny State has decided POT is illegal, it has been shown to be MUCH safer for you than alcohol.

Just pay your tag fees on time and don't drive impaired. Smiling

Submitted by PTC Observer on Sat, 08/29/2009 - 2:55pm.

Maybe he does, then he can be charged with a felony.

I didn't know we could simply pick the laws we disagree with and ignore them.

If you want MJ legalized then work to change the law. Until then it's illegal.

People are dying enforcing these laws AND because of attitudes like yours.

Submitted by Spyglass on Sat, 08/29/2009 - 5:01pm.

My attitude is killing folks. Wait until my Wife finds out.

NUK_1's picture
Submitted by NUK_1 on Sat, 08/29/2009 - 4:04pm.

IT'S A MISDEMEANOR. He'll have his day in court and be dealt with under the law as he or anyone else should. No one is saying that he didn't break the law.

As far as people dying to enforce archaic and stupid drug laws, yes, that's a reality. There is a gigantic law enforcement jobs program sucking money like a bottomless pit that is built solely around the War on Drugs to combat the even larger underground drug economy created solely because of said drug laws.

The people are dying due to the attitude of the Nanny state and all of its disciples that are obsessed over what substances people put into their own bodies.

Submitted by PTC Observer on Sat, 08/29/2009 - 9:49pm.

So, see my response to your buddy Spyglass. What are you doing about it but complain?

NUK_1's picture
Submitted by NUK_1 on Sat, 08/29/2009 - 11:10pm.

I've been in the Libertarian Party since the 1980's. Believe it or not, at one time there were even some Repubs who actually had clear thinking and a grasp of history on the issue before the far right wing fundies hijacked the party, but sadly people like William Buckley are no longer around and neither are too many "liberty Republicans."

Submitted by Bonkers on Sun, 08/30/2009 - 6:58am.

Looks like you would have goten wise since the "80s!"

In a world of 310,000,000 Americans and three billion or more people, we can't all be "at liberty!"

There would be no roads, no army, no government to negotiate, no protection from internal bandits, no nothing except hangings!

NUK_1's picture
Submitted by NUK_1 on Sun, 08/30/2009 - 7:50am.

Limited government and not "no government."

Submitted by PTC Observer on Sun, 08/30/2009 - 8:56am.

Agree with your idea of limited government buzzsaw, but if you argue that some laws need to be ignored simply because they are "stupid" then you end up with anarchy. It can't be both. We have a nation of laws whether you believe it or not.

Just go out there and grow some weed, get caught, and see what happens friend.

It's not enough to be a member of the LP, you have to get out in front by enforcing the law. Stupid or not. Then we need to change the "stupid" ones. Do you go to the LP function every second Tuesday of the month? Are you organizing? Not good enough to say you simply vote, the LP needs foot soldiers too.

S. Lindsey's picture
Submitted by S. Lindsey on Sun, 08/30/2009 - 8:52am.

Most cannot conceptualize a limited Government..
It has been so insinuated in their lives they cannot envision their lives without Government interference..

I have read too many post on here.. People who actually believe that Government can run their lives better then they can... But after reading their post.. hmmmm.. they may be right.. Sad isn't it..

"Any People who expect to be both IGNORANT and FREE, in a state of CIVILIZATION, expects what NEVER was and NEVER will be."

Submitted by PTC Observer on Sun, 08/30/2009 - 9:00am.

Sad indeed......

The repression of ideas in our public schools is what has led us to this unfortunate result. Socialized schools are the worst idea since Democracy.

Submitted by Spyglass on Sat, 08/29/2009 - 5:02pm.

I'm sorry, this issue gets my dander up every time.. It's time for a margarita....wait, is that still legal?

Submitted by Bonkers on Sun, 08/30/2009 - 9:28am.

Legal if not drunk in public.

Good to hide behind also.

Submitted by PTC Observer on Sat, 08/29/2009 - 7:38pm.

Well Spyglass if it gets your dander up, go out an elect folks that will change the law.

    Think Libertarian Party.

Stick your neck out, get involved in the process, say publicly what you stand for and get out their in front.

Or are you the type that believes the most expedient thing to do is just to ignore the law? Remember the principle of a Nation of Laws and not of Men? Or don't you think that applies to you?

Booze is legal, we went through the Progressive (read socialist) Era and they changed the Constitution to outlaw it. Then the people came to their senses after crime ruled most of the country. Sound familiar?

MJ is not legal and people are dying trying to enforce the law. Laws reflect the character of a nation, just like their elected representatives.

Once we begin putting ourselves above the law, we're doomed as a nation. Everyone is expected and required to obey the law, even our elected representives.

Just getting your "dander" up doesn't cut it with me pal. Stand up for your principles. Let’s see some action and not just anonymity on the Citizen website.

BTW, I am surprised that you have to inform your wife of your attitude. Puzzled

Submitted by Spyglass on Sun, 08/30/2009 - 8:02am.

for years. So far, it hasn't gotten me very far.

Submitted by PTC Observer on Sun, 08/30/2009 - 9:03am.

What if the Founding Fathers simply voted and thought a little bit? I don't think it would have gotten them very far either.

I think you see my point?

Submitted by Bonkers on Sun, 08/30/2009 - 6:45am.

Wouldn't it make sense then to make marijuana legal just as they did alcohol? Gets rid of the dopers, pushers, Cartels, wars in Mexico!

Civil disobedience is legal if you are willing to pay the price for the effort! Ask the blacks of the 60s about back of the bus, water fountains, toilets, schools, etc.
Do you drink? Are you or family unrealized alcoholic? (Need it every day to some extent?)
Would it change if illegal?

Submitted by PTC Observer on Sun, 08/30/2009 - 9:32am.


You are talking apples and oranges Bonkers. The civil rights movement, which I was proud to be apart, dealt with individual liberty. Laws were instituted to deprive men of their rights that are guaranteed in the Constitution. Peaceful civil disobedience was called for in those days because of the nature of the times and most importantly because of the violation of the natural rights of man.

The Founders agreed that a society must have laws to keep it orderly but they too feared the overreach of government in this area, thus the first ten amendments to the Constitution – The Bill of Rights. There was a big debate about this during the ratification process. However, that's another story.

There is no law in the Constitution that explicitly gives you the right to use drugs. However there are laws on the books that specifically forbid their use. These laws are behavioral laws put in place to have an “orderly” society. There are laws on the books that as Spyglass points out don’t make sense, as citizens it is not our right to ignore them but to change them. Until they are changed it is our obligation to obey them and enforce them as well.

People who merely complain about the status of the law, or worse ignore them do their country and communities a disservice. It is our obligation to stand up for the law, just as it is our obligation to change laws we disagree with. This is the very essence of representative government.

So, there you go Spyglass, Buzzsaw, and Bonkers. Don’t like the law get out there can change it.

As to my drinking habits, I have been known to have a drink occasionally. Are you buying?

NUK_1's picture
Submitted by NUK_1 on Sun, 08/30/2009 - 11:42am.

Yes, it is our right to change laws we don't agree with and I do not encourage people to break laws that they don't happen to agree with. If they desire to do whatever anyway, they had better understand the risk/reward of said behavior and be ready to accept the consequences, legal and/or otherwise. For example, though it hasn't happened in about 25 years, when I decide to drive 70mph on a 55mph section of the highway, I understand that I am "ignoring" the law and may have to pay a speeding ticket if I am caught engaged in that behavior.

All that said, most Americans are going to take the simple route and ignore said laws, not do something "radical" like voting or actually joining a political party on the edge like the LP.

The Constitution didn't explicitly ban most anything that is currently deemed illegal these days. Back in those days, not only was alcohol and tobacco legal, but so was weed, heroin, cocaine, etc.

Getting back to the original debate, Horgan was charged with a misdemeanor for breaking the law. A court has since held that his alleged crime doesn't warrant a recall or special election. That's the law of the land also.

Submitted by PTC Observer on Sun, 08/30/2009 - 12:26pm.

Laws are broken every day, even by elected representatives like Mr. Horgan. The point is that they shouldn't be intentionally broken, especially by elected representatives. You only need to go back in history to find the end result of "representatives" who chose to ignore the law. It didn't work out too well for millions of people.

It is not only our right to change law it's our obligation to get involved in the process of doing this. Not merely complain about it.

The people that lead the recall effort may have had other motives, I don't know, but the aim of having a representative government led by people with good judgement can't be denied. It is the right thing to do, it is also the right thing to do to go through the due process of recall if you feel strongly about it. This is what they did, and they lost.

However, it doesn't make Mr. Horgan's actions right. He will have his day in court and his punishment should fit the crime. He should be held at a higher standard because he represents all the people, not just those that represent your thinking. He is expected to obey the law as a citizen and certainly as a representative of the people.

Laws are not in place to be ignored or dismissed, even by forward thinking people like you. Think about it.

NUK_1's picture
Submitted by NUK_1 on Sun, 08/30/2009 - 12:39pm.

I've stated that pretty clearly. Even if I think the law is stupid, that doesn't mean I advocate breaking it. I'm saying it happens pretty commonly. I'm not advocating it. I may be in favor of legalization of drugs, but that's not because I want to suddenly do them since they would then be "legal."

I have never voted for Horgan, but I don't think you have special elections/recalls over a politician being charged with a misdemeanor on his own time.

Submitted by PTC Observer on Sun, 08/30/2009 - 1:53pm.

OK, thanks.

Submitted by Bonkers on Sun, 08/30/2009 - 11:28am.

No, I'm not buying.

I do however understand the apples and oranges part you mentioned.

I now know what laws Libertarians want and what laws they don't want.
They want the ones that they, the libertarians, want (the apples) and they don't want the ones the libertarians don't want (the oranges).

I thought the Constitution or bill of rights did say one could have dope if they wanted it! (Isn't alcohol dope?)
Oh, I see, only select ones (by the libertarians count).

Submitted by PTC Observer on Sun, 08/30/2009 - 12:32pm.

OK - I didn't think you would.

I am happy to know that you know.

Have a good weekend.

NUK_1's picture
Submitted by NUK_1 on Sat, 08/29/2009 - 11:29pm.

No different than when the 55mph speed limit was forced on every interstate highway system by Nixon's extortion threat of cutting-off $$$...people drove above 55mph anyway. Speed limits are still widely ignored. Does that make anyone driving over the posted speed limit a "bad person?"

There are so many ridiculous laws on the books all across the country that are remnants of decades ago and most people don't even know exist that are broken simply because politicians are too lazy to clean up the mess.

When the laws of the country don't reflect the desires of the country, expect them to be ignored.

If people's morals and character changed as dramatically and on a whim as some "laws" do, it would be a disaster. There are plenty of things that may be "bad ideas" but are not illegal. The dumbing-down approach of anything "bad" needs to be made illegal is a disaster.

If there is ever a time in this country where the character of the nation is solely reflected by its laws, it's all over.

cogitoergofay's picture
Submitted by cogitoergofay on Fri, 08/28/2009 - 3:47pm.

The Bost / Ross Recall Posse see themselves as self-appointed gladiators of righteousness. To me they are display danger as censors and police of private conduct. Mr. Horgan is accused of violating a criminal statute. As Judge Baldwin correctly noted, it had nothing to do with his public service. He will be dealt with just as Judge Sams dealt with the DUI of PTC Manager McMullen. Attorney Jindra should be commended for the job he did in this case by defending our Consitution. The danger of recall elections is that they subvert the value of elections as a whole. If opponents are able to subject incumbents to recall elections at will, the standard election is marginalized. Government administration is disturbed.What if Horgan had been outed as gay? What if he had been overheard saying something positive about our Democrat Commander in Chief? What if a politician shocked our bucolic county by marrying a 25 year old? We thus intrude unnecessarily in to private lives.

Such was the similar fate of a small town Oregon politician. Mayor Carmen Kontur-Gronquist posted a photo of herself on her MySpace page clad only in undergarments. Although a suggestive photo (perhaps) it appeared no more provocative than swimwear. Nonetheless, it was excuse enough for her political opponents to cry “Recall”.

The memories I cannot dispel when considering the power to wielded by Recall efforts are the similar intrusions made by Presidents John Adams and George Bush. The former was blemished by the Aliens and Seditions Act; the later by the shameless legal artifice known as Guatanamo Bay. If the interrogations were proper, why go to the extremes of using a military base in a foreign county? Bush was arguing for a distinction without a difference. Each President will be devalued by his intrusion in to civil liberties and individuals’ rights. Do not the Recall Police do the same? (One could argue that Lincoln committed the same sin with the suspension of civil liberties but there are some meritorious legal distinctions).

Stay out of our private lives. If what is done by a public official in private is repugnant to the mores of the majority of the citizens, I trust them to deal with it at the next election.

Git Real's picture
Submitted by Git Real on Fri, 08/28/2009 - 8:01pm.

The Dennis Davenport / Bill McNally former Fayette County taxpayer biliking law firm got sent packing down the road along with Greg Bost and Harold Dunn. Can you say sowwwwweeeeeeeettttttt!?!?!? Yeah baby!!!

We'll get rid of Horgan soon enough without wasting a $100,000 of taxpayers money like happened when Bost Hogg stiffed us.

Obama.... The Bernie Madoff Of Washington

Submitted by Bonkers on Fri, 08/28/2009 - 2:54pm.

To use Marijuana as a reason to recall an official is like all of the "officials" who are alcoholics or have tickets for drunken driving; it is legal as long as is alcoholism!

We accept the doping of adults with alcohol as a necessity and a right.
Everyone deserves a trial, and yet this judge has pre-convicted this man by suggesting that he be recalled or go to jail as his sentence at his trial. If you violate probation rules you can go to jail.

Tacking on a recall effort to a violation of probation is "railroading."

Many meetings of officials are conducted by and attended by "drunks" at the time. A violation of public drunkenness!

He needed to be tried anyway for attempted graft to an officer if he did that and it can be proved in court.

He is on his last term due to this anyway--what harm can he do!
Don't use railroading and opinions instead of trials by jury!

Submitted by PTC Observer on Fri, 08/28/2009 - 2:54pm.

"But neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt." – Samuel Adams

To separate an elected offical's personal life from his role as a public servant is a fatal mistake for a representative democracy.

Character matters and elections have consequences....we elect those that represent our character.

MajorMike's picture
Submitted by MajorMike on Fri, 08/28/2009 - 12:30pm.

"After the hearing, recall supporter and former county commissioner Greg Dunn said ...." - Ad infinitum, Ad nauseum.

Were it not for "Done" Dunn and his merry band of malcontents (and one idiot), I would suggest that Horgan seriously needs to consider resigning. But ... I will not suggest that anyone cave to the self serving demands of the Dunn crowd.

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