Gary discusses lawsuits being filed against the city of LaGrange over utility services and fees. See how the situation in LaGrange is different than other cities in the area.
Maureen: Hello there and welcome to Legal Break, I’m Maureen Akers, and with me today is Gary Bruce as always. Thank you so much for joining us here today, Gary.
Gary: Thank You, Maureen, good to be here.
Maureen: Well, here to talk about something kind of interesting in the news, and that has to do with the city of LaGrange. There’s been a federal lawsuit filed against it, and can you give us any insight into this?
Gary: There has been. I’ve read about it through legal periodicals in current state of Georgia, but I had no idea about this. It relates to the control the city has over utilities, different than Columbus, different than most other municipalities in Georgia apparently, LaGrange owns the access, or controls the electric, water, sewage, all those kind of utilities. So what happens is when people owe some money on a municipal fine, the city is tacking it on to their bill for services. And then, if they don’t pay the bill, or don’t pay the fines, they’re cutting off services. I think that’s the allegations of the of the complaints.
Maureen: Yeah, so two kind of, unrelated things, but they’re tying them together?
Gary: Well, the city would say not unrelated. The city would say that you owe the city some money for this stuff. So, I think that’s their position, there’s nothing unfair about it, pay your fine and you don’t have to worry about it. The Fair Housing Act has been utilized by the plaintiffs to bring the action, and they’re saying there’s a discriminatory element to it, where these fines are being placed on unrelated bills, unrelated services. I tend to agree, you know here’s the deal: let’s say we live together, and we have children, and I don’t pay my fine, my parking ticket. Now my children, or your children, or those dependent on me, are cut off from essential services. I think that’s where the arguments are going to go. So, it’s an interesting case that it should be- I think it’s going to be tried.
Maureen: Yeah, so, as a follow-up, I guess if you find yourself without these utility services, do you have the right to fight that?
Gary: Well these people. And, on behalf of them they are. So, I think it will be an interesting case to watch here locally, and happens and how we kind of decide to treat people. It seems to me there’s some innocent victims, seems to me that if you don’t pay your fines there’s other things you can do besides cutting off electricity and water.
Maureen: Do you think there’s a time frame in which this may get resolved?
Gary: You know, you just don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that. I would hope that it would be something that’s resolved fairly quickly, so everybody knows where they’re heading, and what’s going to happen next. But, it should be an interesting case, the city attorney has taken a hard stand apparently, and the plaintiffs are taking a hard stand, and so we’ll see what happens.
Maureen: We’ll see what happens. Well, very good, interesting topic today. Thank you so much for joining us, Gary and we look forward to seeing you on the very next Legal Break.