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Judge tosses complaint against commissioner
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Forsyth County News

A retired pastor's court claim against the chairman of the Forsyth County commission was dismissed Wednesday on a technicality.

Jo Ann Leifeste filed a complaint against Charles Laughinghouse in April following a contentious retail rezoning of some 3 acres on Castleberry Road.

Superior Court Judge David Dickinson heard both parties Wednesday afternoon in the Forsyth County Courthouse.

Attorney Paul Frickey of Jarrard & Davis filed the motion to dismiss on behalf of Laughinghouse because he said the appropriate parties were not named in the petition for Writ of Certiorari.
Dickinson agreed.

"The petitioner failed to name proper parties pursuant to relief by Writ of Certiorari," said Dickinson, adding that Laughinghouse should not have been specifically named as the respondent in the petition.

Leifeste acted as her own attorney.

Dickinson commended Leifeste for her tenacity.

"This is a difficult process to go through," Dickinson said. "I urge you in the future to consider hiring a lawyer."

Leifeste said after the decision that she felt satisfied.

"I feel he's a fair judge," she said. "He did his job."

She said she thought she did a pretty good job, too.

"For my age and my lack of legal knowledge, I did pretty decent."

Laughinghouse did not attend the proceedings. Reached by phone afterward, the chairman said he was relieved.

"The county can devote its time and money to other issues," he said. "There have been staff members that have put a lot of time into this."

In order to appeal the commission's 3-2 decision from April 14, Leifeste filed a Writ of Certiorari, which she said was necessary to appeal a commission vote.

She brought a complaint against Laughinghouse to the county ethics board shortly after the April 14 decision, but the board voted 5-0 to dismiss it.

At that time, she contended that Laughinghouse's behavior had been unethical, citing e-mails between the chairman and the project's developer, Sal Migliore.

The board disagreed, saying it is not uncommon for commissioners to have discussions with developers about pending proposals.

Leifeste also noted traffic, safety and other concerns in her opposition to the developer's plans.

In February, the commission voted 3-2 to deny the developer's rezoning request. But the vote was rescinded in March after Commissioner Linda Ledbetter changed her mind.

The issue returned before the commission in April, when it was approved 3-2, this time with Laughinghouse, Ledbetter and Commissioner Jim Harrell supporting it.