Social Circle council meeting turns hostile

SOCIAL CIRCLE -- A citizen made a pointed request of the Social Circle City Council: Resign.

Social Circle resident Lurie Maddox on Thursday made an emotionally charged speech at the City Council meeting during which he spewed accusations at Mayor Jim Burgess and City Manager Doug White that ranged from improper and corrupt police behavior to misapplied priorities and preferential treatment of the city's power structure at the expense of citizens.

Saying he could get no direct answers from the mayor and city manager, Maddox addressed the three council members present, David Keener, Anne Peppers and Angela Porter.

"There is corruption in our police department as well as in this little town," Maddox, 65, said. "Speaking for myself, if you continue to do these things -- and this is not a threat -- but I am going to ask you to resign tonight. ... I ask y'all to resign for some things I'm going to bring up."

Maddox said the impetus for his tirade was an incident that occurred around 8:30 p.m. June 6 when he and his sons were at the Standridge Color complex on Ashley Drive, where he is employed part time to clean.

According to Maddox, a Social Circle police officer approached him and pulled a gun on him, saying he was responding to a report of a burglary. Maddox said this frightened him because he had his 15-year-old son with him. Incensed over the incident, Maddox reported it to Mayor Burgess and an investigation apparently ensued.

Maddox said his frustration peaked, however, when he later spoke with Public Safety Director Tom Fox about the incident. According to Maddox, Fox said the mayor told him to bring the officer back to work as a show of support for the police force.

When Maddox confronted Mayor Burgess with this on Thursday, Burgess told Maddox that his allegation "is a lie."

"Bringing that officer back on line, I had nothing to do with that," Burgess said.

Maddox then turned to Fox, reminding him he was the third police chief in four years, and pointedly asked him whether or not he had told him that was what the mayor said.

Fox, who had earlier told Maddox the incident was still under investigation and assured him the right thing would be done, remained silent to Maddox's direct question.

Maddox then referenced a couple of other instances when citizens had complained that local police officers overstepped their authority, to which the standing room-only crowd voiced their agreement.

"Mr. Fox, you've stated in the newspaper that you've received no complaints about your police department, but Mr. Fox, 80 percent of the people in here got complaints," Maddox said to more vocal support from the audience.

Bob Standridge, owner of Standridge Color in Social Circle, echoed many of Maddox's concerns. He said Maddox's experience was not the first time one of his employees had had a gun pulled on him by a Social Circle police officer. Standridge said one of his night supervisors was pulled over a few months earlier around 2 a.m. for not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign. The officer allegedly approached the man with his weapon drawn, Standridge said.

"You have a corrupt bunch of people, as far as I'm concerned," Standridge said.

Maddox's complaints to the City Council extended beyond the police department, though. He leveled several accusations at the mayor, including making deals to purchase property in the city and entertaining requests to annex land in Newton County, all without discussion with the City Council.

Burgess said very little during Maddox's emotional presentation, except to tell him from time to time that he was mistaken.

When Maddox finished his statement -- to a rousing round of applause from the audience -- Burgess attempted to move to the next item on the City Council's agenda without comment, something that apparently irked Standridge.

"Mr. Burgess, you can't just ignore this outburst," Standridge said, acknowledging that responding would be like wrestling with an alligator. "But right now you have a lot of unhappy people in this community."

Councilwoman Porter, who is the daughter of Maddox, then addressed the public. She held up a copy of the 911 log from Walton County Communications and said there was no call listed for the night of June 6, when her father was stopped by the police.

The Citizen has requested a copy of the 911 report for that day through the state Open Records Act. According to Wendra Williams with the Walton County Communications Office, this information will be available in about a week. However, she did confirm Friday that a 911 call was logged in at 8:32 p.m. June 6 for 203 Ashley Drive.

When reached for comment Friday, Fox reiterated that the incident was still under investigation and said he did not feel comfortable commenting further at this time. He did say the officer remains in full standing with the police department and that the mayor never told him to reinstate the officer. Fox said he would be prepared to make a public response to many of the allegations once the investigation is completed.

The Social Circle Public Safety Department currently employs 15 full-time POST-certified officers and one part-time officer.