The Cobb District Attorney’s office has responded to the complaint, and it launched an investigation into the mayor on Monday, said Kim Isaza, the DA’s spokeswoman.
The dispute that prompted the investigation happened July 29 between James Quarterman, a Douglasville farmer, and Austell mechanic Steve Langley, cousin of Mayor Jerkins.
Quarterman said Langley made repairs to his car he did not authorize. When the total for the repairs came to $1,600, Quarterman said he couldn’t afford to pay it all at once and offered a partial payment to get his car back.
Langley said he wouldn’t take partial payments because he didn’t want to be liable for collecting the rest of the money, and he refused to let Quarterman have his car.
Quarterman said he called the police to the repair shop to sort out the situation, and police told him that day that Langley did not have a right to hold his car. When Quarterman called the police, Langley called his cousin, Mayor Jerkins.
Quarterman said Jerkins obstructed justice by not allowing police at the scene to do their job. Instead, Quarterman said the mayor took the matter into his own hands.
“The mayor said something to the effect of, ‘I’ve known this man (Langley) for a long time, and if he says you owe him money, you owe him money,’” Quarterman said.
The mayor said he did go to Langley’s Volkswagen repair shop on Veterans Memorial Highway in Austell on the night in question, but would not comment on the situation because it is under investigation.
“(Quarterman) went and filed charges on me in the DA’s office, so I don’t need to be making any comment on it,” Jerkins said.
Langley said Monday he still had Quarterman’s car at his shop, but he didn’t see anything unlawful about what he or the mayor did.
“This is all being blown out of proportion,” Langley said. “All I want is just to get paid, and I didn’t ask for anything else.”
Jerkins said it’s not uncommon for him to visit crime scenes and wrecks in Austell.
“I’m the city manager and the mayor. There’s nobody in between, so I go out to everything,” Jerkins said.
Jerkins said last week he was called out to a fire in Austell at 11 p.m., and he stayed at the scene until it was put out at 3 a.m.
Quarterman said he contacted the Cobb District Attorney’s office because the mayor used his influence to stop police from doing their job.
“Who is in control down there? The mayor? Or the police?” Quarterman said.
Quarterman said he has repeatedly requested a copy of the incident report from July 29, but police will not give it to him. When he visited the Austell police station Monday, Austell Police Captain Randy Henson said he could not comment on the case because of the ongoing investigation.
Quarterman also could not get a copy of the incident report, Henson said.
Jerkins said the DA’s office has interviewed Austell police officers and is expected to make a decision about whether to pursue the charges today.
“I’ll let (the investigation) take its course, and then I’ll comment on it,” Jerkins.
Ben Williams, president of the Cobb chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was one of a few local activists in the community who are supporting Quarterman in his claims against the mayor.
“What is clear to us is this is an abuse and misuse of power by the mayor of Austell,” Williams said. “Many people have heard of allegations of things done ‘the Austell way.’”
Williams claims the mayor’s involvement in Quarterman’s situation is one incident out of many where Jerkins inserted himself.
“It is a practice that exists and a culture that exists here in Austell where the mayor can obstruct law enforcement because there happens to be a friend of his involved,” Williams said.