LEESBURG, Ga. -- Lee County attorney Eddy Meeks pondered the question, weighing his words before offering an answer.
Meeks had just finished giving an account of legal and financial concerns surrounding Lee County Commission candidate Lester Leggette, whose wife Meeks had represented in the couple's divorce case, and he was asked why he chose to go on the record with the information.
"The people of (District 3 in) Lee County are going to choose either Mr. Leggette or Mr. (Ed) Duffy to represent them in their county government," Meeks said. "This information, which has been heard by judges in Lee County Superior Court, in Bankruptcy Court and in State Court in Albany, is information that voters in Lee County have a right to know before they make that decision.
"I've watched Mr. Leggette put on this show of his in three different courts, and now he's doing the same thing with this election. I love Lee County, and even though I can't vote in the Palmyra District and I have not given one penny of support to either candidate in this race, I think the truth should come out."
Meeks offered court documentation from Lester and Susan Leggette's divorce proceedings filed in December 2004, a bankruptcy filing by Lester Leggette filed in July 2009 and a battery, family violence warrant filed in April 2008 taken against Leggette in an incident that involved one of his children to support his contention that Leggette's candidacy is "not in the best interest of Lee County."
Informed that The Herald had received information and documentation pertaining to Leggette's past woes, the candidate's campaign manager, Herbert Gladin, offered strong words of rebuttal.
"As to any mention of abuse (in the battery case), that seems to border on defamation, liable and slander," Gladin said. "If I'm not mistaken, that issue was worked out in court and all implicated persons (in the matter) were absolved by the court. You'd have to ask a real lawyer, but I think that means in the court's eyes, this incident doesn't exist. If I'm right, the information that you were given violates my friend's (Leggette's) privacy.
"I would suspect the informant in this case is my friend's ex-wife's divorce attorney Eddy Meeks. (That information was confirmed to Gladin.) I don't understand why he would want to rub salt in the wounds after receiving what I suppose is the largest divorce settlement he's received since he was banished from his former law firm in Ocilla. I thought I detected such a threat as this when I talked to Ed Duffy last Saturday. Are they stooping to low-standing, sleazy politics by enlisting such an unprincipled lawyer? If so, they must be desperate."
Contacted about Meeks' and Gladin's comments, Duffy said he would not respond to them.
"When I decided to run for a second term, I decided to run on my record and my record only," Duffy said Tuesday. "That's what I have done. I made a personal commitment not to talk negatively about my opponent under any circumstances, and I will not."
Meeks said Leggette was held in contempt on "at least three different occasions" during his and Susan Leggette's divorce case. He said Leggette was found to have "willfully disobeyed court orders" in not paying his ex-wife money owed her, in not funding an educational trust for the couple's three children and in not paying attorney's fees.
Meeks also said Leggette "filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy to avoid arrest" when he learned that a warrant had been issued.
"If I had been arrested, I would have gone to jail for 20 days and lost my job," Leggette, an anesthetist, said Tuesday. "At the time, I was trying to get custody of my youngest daughter. Under the advice of my attorney (T. Gamble, who writes a weekly column for this paper), I filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy and received an automatic stay on all court action.
"But my understanding was that under Chapter 13, I would be under a 100 percent payment plan. I planned to pay off everything I owed. I asked for a year to do that."
Both Leggette and Meeks said he made an almost $85,000 lump-sum payment this week.
Meeks also said Leggette confronted one of his children at his ex-wife's home, and when the teen opened the door Leggette "attacked the child causing a concussion." Meeks also said during the confrontation, a pistol fell from Leggette's clothing.
"I spanked my child, who was being an unruly child," Leggette said.
Meeks said that Leggette was ordered, under a pretrial diversion ruling, to undergo anger management and to provide for family counseling.
"Judge (John) Salter tried to heal my family," Leggette said. "He tried to do what's best for my children. I believe that incident has been expunged from my record, and I now have custody of my youngest child."
Court documents signed by Salter show that Leggette was ordered to pay appropriate fines, go through anger management and provide family counseling for his daughter. The pretrial intervention ruling also stated that the issue could be expunged from Leggette's record if he met the conditions of the agreement.
Court records dated Oct. 5, 2009 also show that Leggette "completed all special conditions of the Pre-Trial Diversion Program," but Clerk of Superior Court Evonne Mull said Thursday the incident had not yet been expunged from Leggette's record.
"Expungement was part of the pre-trial agreement, but that has to go through the court before it is complete," Mull said. "There is a three-page form that has to be completed: one page by him, one by the arresting officer and one by the district attorney's office. That's all he has left to do to take care of that."
Leggette contradicted that claim, offering copies of the form Mull said is required.
Meeks, meanwhile, said he had no qualms about revealing issues from Leggette's past.
"I will go on record in this matter," he said. "All of what I've told you is public record. If Mr. Leggette and his supporters are willing to attack Mr. Duffy's record publicly, why shouldn't they be expected to come under the same scrutiny?"
Gladin said he and Leggette want only to run a campaign based on the issues.
"We don't like these games," Leggette's campaign manager said. "We just want to win an election with honest work and genuine dedication to a purpose."