Effort to Establish Equal Rights Protection Fails in Columbus


Right-wing religious groups mobilize to block extending civil rights on basis of individual’s sexual orientation / sexual identity.

Georgia one of 3 states in the country without civil rights law.

Text from an email by Assistant City Attorney Lucy Sheftall sent out to City Councilors 8.18.2021:

Attached you will find a clean copy of the NDO which will be placed on the Agenda for next Tuesday. We have further refined the process for appointing mediators with Ed Berry’s help and further clarified how the Hearing Officers will collect their own fees.

I also wanted to be sure that all of you have the information concerning costs of administering the Ordinance that some of you have asked for. Here is a brief summary:

Revenue to CCG:
* $25.00 filing fee for each case unless showing of indigency made.
* Up to $500.00 per case for fines if a violation is found.
These items are to be remitted to the Revenue Division and will be collected through contempt action in Recorder’s Court if not passed.

Items paid by the parties with no responsibility for CCG:
Mediator: If the parties opt into mediation, the Office of Dispute Resolution will assign a mediator from its rotating list. The current cost of such mediator is $100.00 per hour and they usually require a two hour minimum. The parties split the cost, and consistent with ODR policies, pre-payment can be required. Thus, for almost all cases the cost of the mediation is currently $100.00 per party and the Mediator would have no risk of not being paid. Ed Berry has also indicated that currently his ODR has funding that could enable them to actually bear the cost of the mediation where appropriate. They are eager to participate and make this process work. We have chosen not to put all of these specifics in the Ordinance because the fee rates could change over time and the ODR funding my not be available long term.

Hearing Officer: Based on the fees currently paid to Judges Pro-Tem and Public Defenders who cover a whole session in Recorder’s Court, a Hearing Officer would receive $150 for each case that does not go to mediation or fails to resolve in mediation. Again, we are not putting a maximum fee in the Ordinance because we want the flexibility to adjust as needed to make sure we have a good list of available hearing officers. The Ordinance provides that the losing party will pay the cost of the Hearing Officer. The Hearing Officer is an independent contractor responsible for collecting his or her own fees, but the new draft adds a provision so that the Hearing Officer can may collection of the fee part of any citation for failure to pay fines and penalties that is sent to Recorder’s Court.

Impact on Recorder’s Court: Some of you have asked about the impact the Ordinance might have on the Recorder’s Court budget. The response is that there would be no significant impact. Based on experience in other jurisdictions it is anticipated that there would be fewer than five cases per year, and Recorder’s Court would only be involved where a party refused to pay their fines or hearing officer costs.  That would suggest that we are only talking about a maximum of two to three extra cases per year. Impact on the court schedule would be minimal. In response to a question about Recorder’s Court having had budget overruns, our Finance Directors say that in the last few years, they have not requested to exceed budgeted funds for their operations. They have made budget add on requests for furniture and add on requests to their physical facilities.

I hope this information is helpful to you. As we are ready to post this in the Agenda on Friday, we would ask that any further requests for changes be held and considered as amendments once the ordinance is on the table.


PDF of the latest version of the Non-Discrimination Ordinance that will be on Columbus City Council agenda for Tuesday, August 31:

About the author

Frank Etheridge

Native son and veteran journalist Frank Etheridge is Editor of Electric City, a digital media outlet dedicated to documenting the news and culture of Columbus, Georgia.

Add Comment