October 25, 2013 10:02:26 AM
Nathan Gregory - firstname.lastname@example.org
Columbus councilman Marty Turner was supposed to be in court Thursday. He did not show up.
Since Turner did not appear in Lowndes County Justice Court at 10 a.m., Judge Peggy Phillips ruled in favor of Lizzie McMillan, who filed a civil lawsuit against the councilman in September. McMillan claims that in May, she paid $1,150 to Turner Furniture for a three-piece living room set. The furniture, she said, was damaged and McMillan sent it back to Turner, who owned the now-defunct business, for repairs.
"I haven't heard from him since," she said after Phillips ruled Turner owes McMillan $1,150.
"Good luck in getting your money," Phillips told McMillan after issuing her default judgment.
The lawsuit marks the third time in less than two months that Turner and his former business have had civil action taken against them. Turner has also been taken to court twice in two years over rent two separate landlords say he owes.
In all -- between his business affairs and back rent owed -- Turner owes almost $78,000, according to Justice Court documents.
The phone number The Dispatch has used in the past to contact Turner no longer receives calls. He could not be reached for comment.
McMillan expressed frustration at her situation Thursday.
"They have my $1,150, plus my furniture," she said of Turner's former furniture business. "I did not get the furniture back, nor my money. I returned the furniture to him May 25 and I haven't heard anything. We've been (to Columbus) every other Friday when I get off work. We come down here, go to the store (and) it said (it was) closed for inventory. I made about 20 trips down here, still haven't talked to nobody. Then today he didn't show up."
McMillan was told if she had not been paid in 10 days to notify court personnel, who would then garnish Turner's wages.
Turner, however, is already having a quarter of his city council paycheck garnished each pay period.
In late July, weeks after he was sworn in for his first term as Ward 4 councilman, the city was issued a writ of garnishment from Gateway Shopping Center. Turner's business once operated at an Alabama Street location owned by the entity. Turner, according to Gateway Shopping Center, owed more than $56,000 in rent payments, plus 8 percent interest totalling $15,657, dating back to January 2011.
The writ states none of Turner's $56,000-plus had been satisfied as of July 23, and called for 25 percent of his disposable income from each city-issued paycheck to be withheld until the judgment is paid in full or Turner is out of office.
The city pays Turner $673 every two weeks for his role as councilman. Twenty-five percent of that amount is $168.
Three months ago, The Dispatch reported that Turner and Swoope Real Estate settled a civil suit filed in June for $2,530 worth of unpaid rent at Turner Furniture's location in the 1400 block of Highway 45 North. "Turner Furniture" signs on the building were removed this summer. Banks Warehouse Furniture now occupies the building.
McMillan isn't the only past customer of Turner Furniture who has taken the business to court.
On Oct. 9 a consent judgment between Brooksville resident Latoria Cockrell and Turner was reached in the amount of $894.93 plus court costs. Justice Court records state Cockrell's cause of action as "money or furniture."
On Sept. 4, a case between Turner and Shirley Harris of Shuqualak was settled. According to court documents, garnishment has been served in the amount of $1,640 in that case. The cause of action listed is "merchandise."
As of May, Turner also owed more than $10,000 from several judgments to the Mississippi Department of Revenue, according to records found on the county circuit court judgment roll. Those judgments were no longer listed on the roll as of Thursday.
A search of all other councilmen and county supervisors yielded no other examples of elected officials currently being garnished for unsatisfied judgments.
On July 3, The Dispatch reported that Turner faced a possible arrest warrant after failing to pay fines totalling $1,416.77 from a two-year old second offense DUI conviction in Hattiesburg. Turner paid those fines on July 5 to avoid further action.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.