Businessman Doug Wingate, right, looks at his attorney, Earl McCall, prior to the beginning of a hearing Wednesday in Lee County Magistrate Court. Wingate is embroiled in a peanut contract dispute with Worth County farmer Jack Bass.
LEESBURG, Ga. — A Wednesday hearing in Lee County Magistrate Court involving Worth County farmer Jack Bass and businessman Doug Wingate ended in a continuation without any witnesses being called and without Judge Jim Thurman ever taking the bench.
The dispute centers around peanut contracts and payments from Wingate to area farmers.
The litigants and a crowd of onlookers gathered in the courtroom, but the hearing never started.
Instead, Bass, Wingate and their lawyers got up and went into a different room at the courthouse to meet with Thurman.
An hour and a half later. Lee County Sheriff Reggie Rachels entered the courtroom and announced the hearing had been “continued for two weeks” without explaining the reason for the delay and without naming a new hearing date.
Bass alleges Wingate owes him for a crop of peanuts and has not paid the contract.
Early last week, Bass told The Herald he did not want to comment on any possible court procedures. He left Wednesday’s hearing without commenting to the media.
Wingate, who owns Great Southern Peanut Co., Georgia Farm Services and several other area companies, also had no comment.
Lee County Commissioner Dennis Roland, who is also a farmer, said a large group of farmers in several Southwest Georgia counties are upset with Wingate over contracts reportedly signed between the farmers and Wingate early this year.
Roland contends Wingate is not honoring the contracts, many of which he said were signed at $700 to $750 per ton.
The county commissioner said Wingate’s companies are neither honoring the signed contracts at the original price nor following normal procedures involving payment when the farmers bring their peanuts in for shelling and processing.
Roland said he is owed about $12,000 in a peanut transaction but noted some farmers have more than $1 million at risk.
— Danny Carter contributed to this article.