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'Progress' lawsuit dropped

A lawsuit filed last year by McDuffie County Newspapers, Inc. against three elected officials in McDuffie County has been dropped.

The lawsuit, which was brought against Sheriff Logan Marshall, Probate Judge Valerie Burley and Superior Court Clerk Connie Cheatham, was dismissed without prejudice on Dec. 21, according to court records obtained by The McDuffie Mirror . The lawsuit was filed against those individuals by the plaintiff's attorney, Gregory F. Harley, of Burr & Forman LLP, a law firm in Atlanta.

No reason was cited by Mr. Harley for the dismissal.

The action, which was originally filed in McDuffie County Superior Court in Thomson on March 5, was brought against the officials by then-publisher of The McDuffie Progress , Jennifer Allen. Ms. Allen is no longer with the newspaper.

The lawsuit claimed that The McDuffie Mirror should not have been awarded the designation as the legal organ of McDuffie County, the City of Thomson and Town of Dearing because it did not meet certain state requirements.

The lawsuit contended The Progress should be made the legal organ because it did meet state guidelines. The Progress is owned by Lancaster Management, Inc., of Gadsden, Ala.

In a letter dated Jan. 9, 2009, to Thomson City Attorney Jimmy Plunkett, Mr. Harley wrote, "We are writing about McDuffie County officials' apparent decision to continue designating The McDuffie Mirror as the legal organ of McDuffie County for 2009."

Mr. Harley explained that The Progress had served as the legal organ for more than 100 years before The Mirror became the legal organ in 2007.

The Mirror 's former publisher, Jason B. Smith, had an independent audit that revealed the newspaper met state guidelines completed prior to the newspaper's being designated the legal organ.

Mr. Harley requested that the sheriff, probate judge and clerk of Superior Court provide him with evidence of the independent audit.

Web posted on Thursday, February 18, 2010

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