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Activist abandons jail battle
Health issues cited for decision
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Forsyth County News
A statewide political activist from Rome has backed off from a legal battle he started against local and state officials.

George Anderson of the Ethics in Government Group has asked the Forsyth County Superior Court to dismiss requests for writs of mandamus he filed last month against the county’s Sheriff Ted Paxton and Fire Chief Danny Bowman.

He has also asked that Fulton County Superior Court dismiss the same request he filed against Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine.

Citing health problems, Anderson said he could not pursue his efforts to force Paxton, Bowman and Oxendine to do what he thinks are their jobs.

According to the writ requests, Anderson took issue with whether the capacity of the Forsyth County Jail was properly increased under laws pertaining to the state fire code.

He said he still has a problem with the increase from 134 inmate beds to 228.

“I’ve just been pulling back on everything because my stress level, the doctor said, can’t handle it right now,” he said. “It has nothing to do with the merits of my complaint.”

Paxton has said that the capacity increase, accommodated by converting bunk beds in the cells to triple bunks, occurred following a March 31 inspection of the jail’s square footage. He also said no violations were found.

He said Tuesday that the writ requests were “preposterous and ludicrous at the onset.”

“I find it amusing that in Mr. Anderson’s filing for dismissal he stated that he felt the ‘rule of law’ would prevail against him,” Paxton said. “By making that statement, it appears Mr. Anderson had no standing to file the motion to begin with.

“I am confident that the county attorney’s office will pursue reimbursement for legal fees, which the county was forced to spend during the process of this baseless filing by Mr. Anderson.”

Bowman deferred comment to Forsyth County Attorney Ken Jarrard.

According to responses Jarrard filed to the writ requests, Bowman and Paxton denied the allegations made against them. The responses also asserted that Anderson’s claims had no standing.

Anderson filed to dismiss the writ requests without prejudice, meaning he can bring the issue back to court at a later date.

According to the dismissals involving Paxton and Bowman, Anderson “sincerely believes that an injustice would prevail upon him, and defendant would be allowed special privileges, special favors and represented by the taxpayers of Forsyth County, Georgia.”

Anderson said he does not agree the capacity of the jail could be changed without expanding the size of the jail.

According to the requests involving Bowman and Paxton, Anderson claimed that they and Oxendine “have all conspired to disregard state fire laws and occupancy certifications” with respect to the local jail.

The writ request involving Oxendine, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governer in 2010, stated it was being sought because of his, Paxton’s and Bowman’s “blatant failure to act and outright refusal to uphold the state of Georgia fire code regulations and fire inspection certificate involving the Forsyth County Jail that is in clear violation of state law by exceeding mandated inmate capacities.”

The increase has allowed the jail to house more inmates locally, thereby cutting costs during the economic downturn.

Paxton has previously said it costs about $45 a day to house an inmate in a facility outside the county, with about 150 still housed elsewhere.

The changes followed November’s failed bond vote to build a new detention center. Voters rejected the plan to build a 226,000-square-foot jail with 480 beds through a $75 million bond, which would have been paid back over 30 years.

It was the fourth time in eight years that a proposal to build a new detention center has failed.

E-mail Julie Arrington at