Piedmont Hits City of Demorest with Threat of Lawsuit

Piedmont+Hits+City+of+Demorest+with+Threat+of+Lawsuit

Abby Cox, Managing Editor

Piedmont College has been no stranger to legal proceedings in recent years, beginning with the wrongful termination suit filed by Robert Wainberg in 2018, which is ongoing and awaiting action in a federal court. As a result of those proceedings, the college has threatened legal action against the city of Demorest, unless mayor and biology professor, Rick Austin, is removed from both of his posts.  

 

It is well documented that the college and city do not have a cordial relationship. During the Piedmont College Town Hall, led by SGA and Student Affairs in both 2018 and earlier this year, President Mellichamp made several remarks about the tense relationship between the city of Demorest and the College, especially with regard to the state of the infrastructure around campus that is maintained by the city.

 

“We find ourselves in the city of Demorest and the upkeep of roads and sidewalks is not Piedmont College’s responsibility,” said Mellichamp at the Town Hall in March of 2020. “The mayor of the city of Demorest is a biology professor at Piedmont College. If you don’t like the roads or sidewalks that the city of Demorest maintains, tell the mayor of Demorest, because I’m tired of being asked to fix the damn things.”  

 

This concern over infrastructure is raised in the demand letter sent by the College earlier this month when referring to the sewage and water rate disagreement. 

 

Piedmont College has sent this letter to the City of Demorest which alleges at least five causes of action, claiming the city and its officials violated the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause and engaged in fraud and racketeering, according to an article published by NowHabersham. The letter gave the recipients and named parties 30 days from receipt of the letter to resolve the claims to the college’s “satisfaction.” It is stated by Piedmont’s attorney, Patrick McKee, in a statement to Now Habersham that if the demands outlined in the letter are not met by the timeline, Piedmont College will “reluctantly pursue whatever legal remedies are available.” McKee continues in his statement on behalf of the college to include that, 

 

“the college leaders have an obligation to protect the college from the concerns raised in our letter, and they take the obligation seriously. Beyond this statement and the letter which we believe adequately explains our position, the college has no further comment.”

 

With the ongoing battle between the college and city, Now Habersham spoke of the allegations dated back to 2018, when Piedmont College claimed Demorest Police Chief Robin Krockum “harassed and threatened” the college’s police officers in a supposed attempt to disband its campus police “in favor of contracting with the city police for its security needs.” The letter claimed it was attempted “extortion” to gain “property rights of the college in the forms of tickets, fines and contractual fees.”

 

Most of the concerns in the letter are aimed at Austin and his alleged bias against the college, where he has been employed since 1997. In an affidavit filed last year in Robert Wainberg’s lawsuit against the college, Austin accused Mellichamp of sexually harassing and assaulting him. However, despite the claims of extortion, fraud and financial damages, the college is not seeking restitution, nor any other solution except Austin’s removal as mayor and the termination of his tenured employment at Piedmont College.

 

Mellichamp has been quite a vocal critic of the mayor and the city in recent months, writing letters to the editor and attending city council meetings.

 

Based on the timeline of the letter sent to the city of Demorest, a response must be issued by early September.