Over 30 people attended the October 17, 2022, Reidsville Council meeting, leaving several citizens standing in a second room.
Several of those in attendance were supporters, friends, and family of Mayor Curtis Colwell. Councilwoman Lindsay Bennett shared her concerns with Colwell holding office and owing property taxes with the city and the county.
Colwell signed an affidavit on April 7, 2021, swearing he was “not a defaulter for any federal, state, county, municipal, or school system taxes required of such officeholder or candidate if such person has been finally adjudicated by a court of competent jurisdiction to owe those taxes, but such ineligibility may be removed at any time by full payment thereof, or by making payments to the tax authority pursuant to a payment plan, or under such other conditions as the General Assembly may provide by general law (pursuant to Ga. Const. Art. II, Sec. II, paragraph III); I will not knowingly violate any provisions of the Georgia Election Code (O.C.G.A. § 21-2) or of the rules or regulations adopted thereunder.”
Bennett directly addressed City Attorney DuAnn Cowart-Davis with her concerns.
“It has come to the attention of citizens and myself alike that there has been an affidavit signed by a member of this panel, swearing and affirming certain matters on their notice and affidavit for candidacy. From my research, there appears to have been factual misrepresentation filed on this form,” Bennett said. “This, by all research I have seen, is false and thereby qualifies for the State charge of False Swearing under Georgia Code Title 16, Chapter 10, Article 4. Per the code, this matter should be referred to the district attorney for investigation and potential prosecution. Therefore, I am requesting that this matter be referred by you to the district attorney without delay.”
Attorney Cowart-Davis said she would look into this matter. Colwell responded by stating he would not step down from his position as mayor, and he does not care if this goes to the district attorney. The room erupted with clapping from his supporters.
Councilwoman Verdie Williams mentioned she spoke with the former attorney general for South Georgia, Ed Tarver, in 2021 regarding unpaid taxes. Tarver told Williams that as long as she had not been adjudicated, or taken to court, then she was able to continue serving on city council. Mayor Colwell also sought out legal counsel earlier this year, and he was told by the secretary of state’s office that he was not in danger, according to Colwell.
Another issue concerning the mayor was addressed. City Clerk Nivea Jackson has been accused on social media of being related to Mayor Colwell, which would violate Georgia’s nepotism restrictions. Jackson provided a copy of her father’s obituary at the council meeting, showing that the mayor is not her uncle.
“It is very demeaning that my daddy has been dead for three years, and I have to come and bring him up at this meeting tonight to defend myself,” Jackson said.
Other items addressed at the meeting:
Public comments will no longer be allowed at the end of each meeting unless the individual wishing to speak has filled out a “Request to Speak Form”. The request must be received five days prior to the council’s planning session, which is the first Monday of every month at 5 p.m. Forms may be completed at City Hall. The decision to close the meetings to public comments was not a decision made by the council as a whole, but this was a decision made by the mayor and some council members in a private discussion, according to Councilman Donald Prestage.
A citizen, Edgar Johnson, requested Pine Street be closed to the public. This street runs behind his house and has not been used in 48 years, according to him. Colwell said the council would look into this issue and consider the closure.
The Atkins-Surrency Park Playground Commission’s balance is $3,020.37. Seating for the basketball courts have been delivered but have not been installed.
Attorney Cowart-Davis was on vacation for some weeks; she has not been able to follow through with filing paperwork regarding dilapidated properties in the city.
City Clerk Jackson said she will have all of the delinquent tax paperwork to Government Tax Solutions by Friday, October 21. The firm has requested the list of property owners, 264 pages worth, which have unpaid property taxes.
The council has formed criteria for their ethics committee, but they are going to have trouble finding an attorney who lives in the city limits. The ethics committee must consist of an attorney who lives in the city limits and two members of the community. The only known attorney who resides in Reidsville is Cowart-Davis, but she cannot be paid by the city and serve on the ethics committee.