False Imprisonment Charges Filed Against Frmr County Commission Chair Bridges

Former Franklin County Clerk Elaine Evans has filed a complaint of false imprisonment against former Franklin County Commission Chair Thomas Bridges and former Franklin-Hart County Airport Authority Board member Bill Flowers.

The complaints were filed by Evans in Franklin County Magistrate Court on Thursday, November 18, and refer to an incident that occurred on October 14, 2019, while Evans was County Clerk.

In both complaints filed last week, Evans alleges both Bridges and Flowers, “did confine and detain” her “without legal authority in violation of O.C.G.A. 16-5-41. ”

The law states that a person commits the offense of false imprisonment when, in violation of the personal liberty of another, he arrests, confines, or detains such person without legal authority.

O.C.G.A. 16-5-41

In a previous complaint filed on October 29, 2019, with the Franklin County Ethics Board, Evans said that on October 14, 2019, she was, “ambushed” by Bridges and Flowers who, she claimed, came into her office that morning without prior notice, shut the door, sat down, and demanded to know why she would not give Flowers the financial information for the Airport Authority, and would not let her leave her office.

Under an agreement the County had with the Airport Authority at the time, the County Clerk took care of the Airport Authority’s bookkeeping.

Flowers, at the time, was the treasurer for the Airport Authority.

In the 2019 complaint, Evans said she told Bridges that Flowers already had access to the online bank statements that listed all of the deposits and checks and could view them anytime.

Evans added in her 2019 complaint that she reminded Flowers in a previous unexpected meeting that all requests for Airport information were to be directed to the Airport Authority Chairman Eddie Addison or Vice-Chairman Mike Ward.

Evans claimed that Flowers then accused her of being a liar and that Bridges, “sat there doing nothing.”

Additionally, in the 2019 complaint, Evans said the incident was part of a pattern of bullying and intimidation by Bridges and Flowers.

In their respective written responses in 2019, both Bridges and Flowers denied any wrongdoing.

On October 29th, 2019 Evans filed a formal complaint against Bridges and Flowers with the Franklin County Ethics Board regarding the October 14 2019 incident.

In December 2019, the Franklin County Ethics Board heard the complaint and ultimately voted not to pursue a formal investigation or hearing on Evans’ allegations.

The Ethics Board agreed unanimously that there were not enough material facts presented to move forward.

Ethics Board member Michael O’Connell said at that hearing that the only concrete piece of evidence the Board had was the fact that Flowers had called Evans a liar.

“The only thing that’s concrete in the entire complaint is that Mr. Flowers accused her of being a liar and she took exception to that. That would be it, as far as I can see,” he said.

Ethics Board Chair Debra Grizzle noted the County Commission is over the Airport Authority and questions arose as to whether Evans should have deferred to Bridges’ request.

“I’m just curious about the chain of command – about who she should have been listening to. It seems to me that he had a right to ask for information if he was not being given it,” Grizzle said.

Ethics Board member JoAnn Butler pointed out that Evans indicated she was acting at the direction of the Authority Board Chair who told her not to give out any financial information to Flowers.

But she believed there was more to the story than either side had stated.

“After her reading her statement and she stated that the Chairman of the Airport Authority asked her not to give the information to Mr. Flowers,” she said. “So I thought that she was the secretary for the Commissioners it was kind of intertwined with what they had asked her not to do. There was something else going on that was not in the papers we have. I think there was something behind the scenes that we didn’t know anything about that was going on.”

Grizzle agreed, but Butler and Ethics Board member Jackie Payne both stated the issue of Flowers calling Evans a liar needed to be addressed.

“I know Miss Evans and I’ve known her a long time, and I don’t think she’d go to the trouble of filing a complaint if she didn’t feel it was warranted. Apparently, she felt threatened. There’s a way to come into a room and a way not to,” Payne said. “About the part of him calling Elaine a liar, I do think that deserves an apology. With all the words that Mr. Webster has to go on, that was not appropriate.”

The Ethics Board did recommend, however, that Flowers apologize to Evans and suggested the three get together to work out their differences.

So far, a probable cause hearing date on the November 19, 2021 complaints against Bridges and Flowers has not been set by the Magistrate Judge in Franklin County.

WLHR News will continue to follow this story and bring you the latest information as it becomes available.