Sue Public Officials, Personally, Who Break Laws When Removing Monuments to Southern War Dead
by Gene Kizer, Jr.
A Georgia organization, the Georgia Minutemen, LLC, founded by Ray McBerry, has filed a lawsuit against all four Henry County, Georgia commissioners as individuals, meaning they are being sued personally. In Georgia, when public officials vote for unlawful acts as these allegedly did in July when they voted to remove the century old Confederate monument on McDonough Square in McDonough, Georgia, they are not protected from personal lawsuits against them.
The McDonough Square monument was removed July 29, 2020 and other laws were apparently broken by the county in their extreme haste to remove the monument.
The commissioners' votes allegedly violated Georgia's strong Monument Protection Act, Georgia Code 50-3-1.
If the Georgia Minutemen prevail, the four commissioners, three Democrats and a Republican, as well as the county manager who facilitated the monument removal, will have to pay out of their own pockets triple "the cost of replacing or restoring the original monument to its rightful place on McDonough Square, all attorneys fees, and exemplary damages in an amount decided by a jury" according to a September 10 press release. There could also be punitive damages.
This is a promising approach! Camps should get their legal people to look at what the Georgia Minutemen are doing to see if you can do the same or something similar. We should think outside the box as our ancestors had to do constantly since they were outnumbered four to one and outgunned 100 to one.
I have included, below, a press release and update from the Georgia Minutemen that go into detail on their excellent lawsuit and what can be done to help them. Their contact information is at the end of this blog post.
North Carolina has had as number of flagrant violations of their Heritage Protection Act (HPA), the Monuments Law of 2015 [N.C.G.S. 100.2-1 (b) and (b) (1)] and if there is any way to start suing those public officials as individuals, it should be done ASAP. If possible, a suit should be brought against the former president of UNC who allowed the destruction of Silent Sam and removal of the base of the statue from the campus.
I don't know what the law is in Alabama but the mayor of Mobile, a Republican named Sandy Stimpson, who removed the magnificent statue of Admiral Raphael Semmes on June 5, 2020, should be targeted for a personal lawsuit if one is possible. Sandy Stimpson is not good enough to polish the shoes of Raphael Semmes.
Heritage groups in every state in America should investigate this strategy. ALL public officials, PRESENT AND PAST, who have broken monument protection laws, should be targeted and brought to justice in a court of law, then voted out of office.
Georgia Minutemen Press Release,
September 10, 2020
(McDonough, GA - 10 September) On Tuesday 8 September 2020, suit was brought by the Georgia Minutemen, LLC, a Georgia corporation, against all four Henry County commissioners who voted in July to remove the Confederate Monument from the McDonough Square where it had stood vigilant for more than 100 years. This suit is different than other suits that have been brought against public officials this year for removing Confederate monuments around the state in that it names all four commissioners in their individual capacity who voted for the removal.
Other lawsuits filed around the state, including Henry County, to force the restoration of monuments moved by public officials have been unsuccessful as yet owing to the onerous doctrine of "sovereign immunity" which protects any subdivision of state government from lawsuits in most cases. The new lawsuit filed by the Georgia Minutemen does an "end around" with regard to the sovereign immunity issue by naming the commissioners in their individual capacity where immunity is limited to lawful acts. Georgia's Monument Protection Act, arguably the strongest in the nation, allows for both civil and criminal suits against public officials who violate its stringent protections of monuments in Georgia.
This suit is important in that it would be a precedent-setting case which could be used as a tool for preventing the unlawful removal of monuments in other places. If the Minutemen are successful in the prosecution of this suit, public officials everywhere will be reticent to consider removing any monument protected under Georgia Code 50-3-1. If the commissioners lose this case, they will be on the hook as individuals for "treble" (triple) the cost of replacing or restoring the original monument to its rightful place on the McDonough Square, all attorneys fees, and exemplary damages in an amount decided by a jury. Monies collected from the verdict will first be applied to restoring the Monument to its home of more than 100 years before any other distributions are made.
The attorney for the Georgia Minutemen is Todd Harding of Maddox & Harding. The Defendants in the case are the four commissioners who voted unlawfully for the removal of the Monument: Dee Clemmons (D), Vivien Thomas (D), Bruce Holmes (D), and June Wood (R-chairman); and the Henry County Manager, Cheri Hobson-Matthews, who effected the removal.
Speaking to local reporters, Georgia Minutemen founder Ray McBerry had this to say about the new filing: "It is sad when we have reached a point in America when even monuments to our heroes that have stood for more than a hundred years are under attack. It is time that Georgians, and all Americans, begin to stand up together and say, 'No more!' Our legislature last year wisely gave the people of the sovereign state of Georgia the tools necessary to prevent this very thing in the form of the strongest monument protection bill in the country... and we intend to use it. Let this be a warning shot to all public officials in this state who are considering removing our monuments... you will be next. We're coming for you in the courtroom."
Minutemen founder McBerry is personally facing a state obstruction charge for refusing to vacate the sidewalk in McDonough on the evening that the County brought a crane company to remove the Confederate Monument. He was told that the crane company could not begin work until the sidewalk was cleared, and he refused to move. Mr. McBerry pointed out to the more than 20 officers present at his arrest that the construction permit they were ostensibly using as their authority to clear the Square could not exist because it was nowhere posted publicly on the site as required by law. Officers arrested and detained him anyway, only to learn the following day through Open Records Requests that the County had, in fact, dropped the ball and failed to obtain the permit as required by law. Although Mr. McBerry's statements to the officers have proven true, the Henry County solicitor's office have thus far refused to dismiss the charge against him.
* * * END RELEASE * * *
Georgia Minutemen Press Release UPDATE,
September 29, 2020
WHY IS OUR LAWSUIT OVER THE CONFEDERATE MONUMENT IN McDONOUGH SO IMPORTANT?
The lawsuit filed by the Georgia Minutemen in the Henry County Superior Court is extremely important for all of Georgia. With monuments to our heroes coming down all across the state even in the face of the strongest monument protection law in America, it is essential that we score a victory for a number of reasons. Both well-meaning individuals and organizations such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans have filed multiple lawsuits to stop the removal of our monuments or force their restoration. To date, ALL of these efforts have been unsuccessful, mainly owing to the onerous doctrine of sovereign immunity which prevents any political subdivision of the state of Georgia from being sued without its permission. Months ago, the Georgia Minutemen put out an article encouraging all Georgians to vote YES this November on the proposed state constitutional amendment on the ballot which would end sovereign immunity in most cases; however, we cannot afford to wait for the outcome of that election. With every day that passes, more monuments are under scrutiny in local communities across the state; and the chances of having monuments put back that have already been removed become smaller and smaller. That's why our lawsuit over the McDonough monument is so crucial.
SO WHY IS THIS CASE SO IMPORTANT?
There are several reasons that this particular case is so important...
1. We are not suing the Board of Commissioners like the SCV and other well-meaning individuals have done around the state. We are suing the commissioners as INDIVIDUALS for breaking the law.
2. We MUST secure a legal win in order to stop other monuments from being removed. So far, none of the legal efforts to enforce our Monument Protection Act have proven successful. We need to take the strongest case to court.
3. There is tremendous popular support for restoring the Monument among the locals in this case.
4. We have and are continuing to receive intelligence and evidence in this case from individuals within the county government here who are sympathetic to our Cause.
5. In going about to break the Monument law, the county in this case has also broken additional laws owing to their attempt to do so quickly and secretively.
6. This particular Monument was already part of the National Historic Registry and is afforded additional protections.
7. The motive of the commissioners in this case was clearly stated... to remove anything Confederate from county property.
For these and some other reasons that I am not at liberty to share at this time related to things which may be presented in court, the case to restore the Confederate Monument in McDonough is the strongest evidentiary case which currently exists on the legal landscape here in Georgia.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE WIN THIS LAWSUIT?
1. The 4 commissioners who voted to remove the Monument illegally (plus the county manager who effected the removal) will be forced to pay PERSONALLY to restore the Monument even though public funds were used for its removal.
2. The law requires that the defendants will be required to pay TRIPLE the cost to restore the Monument.
3. The defendants will be required to repay all of our legal fees and court costs.
4. The jury may award punitive damages if it chooses.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP US WIN?
We are already having success in two instances of halting plans by other localities to remove monuments just because they have learned that we are suing the officials in their PERSONAL status... because NO politician wants to be held PERSONALLY liable with THEIR OWN MONEY for their reckless and illegal actions. They have no qualms about doing it if it is only YOUR TAX DOLLARS at risk and when they can use the county attorney that they do not have to personally hire for their defense. It's a different story when they are risking their own fortunes to break the law. . . .
Contact Information: http://georgiaminutemen.com