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Dougherty Health Department Director aquitted of sign ordinance violation

ALBANY, Ga. -- Albany's Municipal Court judge found the county's health department director not guilty of charges that she violated the city's sign ordinance while trying to promote a flu vaccine drive at a local school.

Dougherty County Health Department Director Cheryl Henley had been cited by Albany Code Enforcement officers for violating the ordinance when, after an officer told a health department official that a permit would be required to post the banners promoting the event across town, she instructed that they be erected anyway.

During her trial Friday morning in Municipal Court, Henley told Judge Willie Weaver that she instructed that the banners go up after she received information from an upper-level health department administrator that city planning officials had given their blessing.

During testimony Friday, Code Enforcement Officer Anthony Donaldson, who cited Henley, told the court that a health department official called him the day they were putting the banners out to see if they needed to get a permit. When he told them that they did, they took down the banners they had already put up.

But the next day, an administrator at the health department contacted Tracy Hester at the Albany-Dougherty Planning Department to inquire about the ordinance. The administrator said, according to Henley, that Hester granted a pass to the health department because it was hosting a one-day event as long as the banners came down immediately after the event.

Hester contradicted that, saying that he told the person that it likely wouldn't garner a citation so long as the banners were up for no more than one day.

Henley, who subsequently gave the order to put the banners back up after hearing from the administrator, said she believed she was acting within the law.