Ex-Commissioner Horgan’s ethics charge against Brown goes down, 2-1

An ethics complaint filed by former Fayette County Commissioner Robert Horgan against commission Chairman Steve Brown over an investigation into former county attorney’s missing computer was dismissed last week by the Fayette County Ethics Commission on a 2-1 vote.

Horgan in the Jan. 24 complaint contended that Brown in early January issued an improper order to the county marshal’s office to investigate the destruction of information on the hard drives of the former county attorney and county administrator. Days later on Jan. 29 commissioners voted to repeal a sentence in the ethics ordinance dealing with a commissioner making suggestions or giving instruction to county staff.

The sentence in Sect. 2-209(n) the ethics ordinance reads, “Commissioners shall not, acting alone, make suggestions to the department directors or their employees regarding the performance of their duties, nor give instructions to department directors or other employees.”

Citing court cases, Brown’s attorney Drew Whalen at the ethics hearing contended that the commission’s Jan. 29 vote to repeal the sentence was appropriate.

“The (county) commission essentially took away your ability to proceed with this ethics complaint,” Whalen said.

Ethics commissioner Larris Marks at the conclusion of Whalen’s remarks made a motion to dismiss the complaint. The motion died for lack of a second.

Whalen then commented that the matter could be decided in Fayette County Superior Court.

The proceeding continued, with the ethics board hearing from the remaining four county commissioners. Each said Brown had called them individually by phone stating his concerns about the need to direct the marshal to investigate. Each commissioner said he agreed with the need to investigate.

The discussion continued for some time but in the end the board voted 2-1 to dismiss the complaint. Voting to dismiss were Marks and Chairman Sheila Huddleston. Commissioner Scott Rowland was opposed. Rowland after the meeting said his opposing vote came because he was not satisfied with the information presented at the meeting.

Though he disagreed with the result, Horgan after the meeting said he would not have filed the ethics complaint if Brown had either turned the matter over to Rapson to order the marshal to investigate or if Brown had called an emergency meeting that required only 24-hour notice so that all commissioners could be present to vote in public to investigate.