Chairman Brown wants taxpayers to pay for his ethics lawsuit

Fayette County Commissioner Steve Brown in a file photo.

Fayette County Commission Chairman Steve Brown is asking his fellow commissioners to pay for the attorney he selected to represent him in an ethics hearing earlier this year.

The attorney’s fees include the filing of a lawsuit in which Brown is seeking to overturn a decision of the ethics board that he violated a rule forbidding commissioners from ordering county employees.

Brown was not admonished, fined or otherwise penalized by the ethics board for the violation, but is apparently pursuing the matter on principle. It is a principle that stands to cost taxpayers $2,128.85 and counting, according to a bill Brown forwarded from Griffin attorney Andrew J. Whalen III.

Brown’s request will be considered Thursday night by the commission during its regular 7 p.m. meeting. Also on tap is a review of the county’s current and prior ethics ordinances, which is expected to be the lead-up to deeper changes in the county’s ethics rules governing the conduct of elected officials and also county employees.

The commission in January changed the language in the ethics ordinance to allow commissioners to direct county employees. Previously, commissioners dealt directly with the county administrator only on the theory that the administrator oversees all county employees and can make orders to affect necessary actions while keeping employees away from the potential political influence of individual commissioners.

In a letter to his fellow commissioners, Brown complains that he is “appalled” that the legal funds “had to be spent” to defend him in the ethics case.

However, no part of the county’s ordinance required Brown to have any legal representation in that ethics hearing, and the citizen who made the complaint, former county Commissioner Robert Horgan, represented himself in the case without an attorney. Brown in his memo contends that Horgan should be responsible for covering the legal fees.

The decision to appeal the ethics board’s Jan. 23 ruling against Brown — that he improperly ordered the county’s human resources director to consult with the Georgia attorney general’s office on a hiring matter — was Brown’s choice. It was not required by the county’s ethics ordinance, nor was it authorized by a public vote of the county commission.

Brown contends that his communication with the HR director was a request, not an order. The 2-1 vote that Brown violated the ethics ordinance was favored by ethics board members Scott Rowland and Sheila Huddleston with ethics board member Larris Marks voting against.

The ethics board later cleared Brown of a separate accusation that he violated the ethics ordinance when he ordered the marshal’s department to investigate a missing hard drive from the county-owned office computer of former county attorney Scott Bennett. Bennett has said he took the hard drive from the computer to have it wiped of information, and that has led the commission to forward the case to the office of State Court Solicitor Jamie Inagawa for investigation of a possible open records violation.

Bennett has contended he has done no wrong in the matter, and that the action was approved by former County Administrator Jack Krakeel.

WLVROCKS
WLVROCKS's picture
Offline
Joined: 02/13/2012
Vote them out

Many of us are disgusted and realize we have a commission comprised of manipulators and the manipulated. Share your frustration with family, friends, neighbors and co-workers with the goal of disposal by way of the vote.

lettinguno
lettinguno's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/17/2010
I still can't believe he was voted in

But I guess every county needs an "Official Pot Stirrer."

AtHomeGym
AtHomeGym's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/18/2007
WLV & vote them out

OK, so just where do you find candidates that would suit you? Would you share with us just what your specific complaints are with the current Board of Commissioners? And just who in the hell is "many of us"?

dogbite
dogbite's picture
Offline
Joined: 03/24/2013
Vote them out

I am one of the many who agree with WLV. Indeed, it might take some effort to find capable and qualified representatives, but reform is unattainable through inaction, blind acceptance,hope or faith.

AtHomeGym
AtHomeGym's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/18/2007
STF & Commission Vote

So pls share with us what the vote was and just where you saw it.

stranger than f...
stranger than fiction's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/27/2012
AJC Metro section today

I assume the report was accurate.

stranger than f...
stranger than fiction's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/27/2012
County commission composed of "Yes men"

If the few who remain in denial require any further evidence that Mr. Brown runs every aspect of the county commission, look no further than their vote Thursday to quash any doubts. He can say or do anything he chooses, and his yes men will pay his way out of his jams.

Thank you, Tea Party, for ushering in such a fine cadre of sycophants.

Keirku
Keirku's picture
Offline
Joined: 03/30/2006
Here's a question

What do you really expect from a man that when mayor of PTC openly broke city ordinance by consulting an attorney about city business that was not the city attorney? And continues to boast about said act of breaking said city ordinance?

Reason stands that the matter has been taken care of, so Brown wishing to pursue the matter is - honestly - frivolous and petty. We as taxpayers should not have to pay for this man's need to satisfy his own ego.

mudcat
mudcat's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/26/2005
So again - 24 hours later what happened? Did he get his $2,000?

And how did the 3 new commissioners vote? Hope some of them showed some spine.

Nothing happened? Or something did? What?

AtHomeGym
AtHomeGym's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/18/2007
Mudkity & Commission Vote

Apparently, the Citizen did not cover the meeting or if they did, no one reported the results. Historically, it takes the County Clerk's Office at least 4 or 5 days to post the results on the County Website.

mudcat
mudcat's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/26/2005
AJC this AM is reporting that yes he got his 2 grand back

but not how each councilman voted or even the number of votes for and against. I think if the taxpayers have to pay to defend individual politician's ethical lapses, we should focus on electing people who don't have ethical problems. The Horgans, Browns and Haddixs of the world need not apply.

30YearResident
30YearResident's picture
Offline
Joined: 03/21/2006
No

The county is not and should not be responsible for legal fees for an ethics charge on an elected official.
While the county may be responsible for providing legal council on a commissioner during the execution of their duties, Ethics charges are not a county taxpayer responsibility.

mudcat
mudcat's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/26/2005
No is the correct vote. No way we should pay $2,000

for this dope's big mouth. Shut him down ad shut him up.

hutch866
hutch866's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/28/2005
Brown
John Munford wrote:

.In a letter to his fellow commissioners, Brown complains that he is “appalled” that the legal funds “had to be spent” to defend him in the ethics case.However, no part of the county’s ordinance required Brown to have any legal representation in that ethics hearing, and the citizen who made the complaint, former county Commissioner Robert Horgan, represented himself in the case without an attorney. Brown in his memo contends that Horgan should be responsible for covering the legal fees.The decision to appeal the ethics board’s Jan. 23 ruling against Brown — that he improperly ordered the county’s human resources director to consult with the Georgia attorney general’s office on a hiring matter — was Brown’s choice. It was not required by the county’s ethics ordinance, nor was it authorized by a public vote of the county commission.Brown contends that his communication with the HR director was a request, not an order. The 2-1 vote that Brown violated the ethics ordinance was favored by ethics board members Scott Rowland and Sheila Huddleston with ethics board member Larris Marks voting against.The ethics board later cleared Brown of a separate accusation that he violated the ethics ordinance when he ordered the marshal’s department to investigate a missing hard drive from the county-owned office computer of former county attorney Scott Bennett.

I'm confused here Steve about what you're appealing....

Steve Brown wrote:

Now, my ethics violation, according to Robert Horgan, was reporting stolen county property to the Marshal's Office. Horgan contented I was acting alone, but he never bothered to do any research which would have produced the same evidence as presented at the ethics hearing - I spoke to all four commissioners and got their approval on what appropriate action to take.

Steve from your post here it appears you're appealing the violation you won, about the hard drive, not the one you lost, about the hiring. Help me out here Steve.

Oh yeah, my name is Randy Clokey, since you seem to have a problem with anonymous bloggers, unless they're kissing your butt.

NUK_1
NUK_1's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/17/2007
hutch: trying to figure that out myself
hutch866 wrote:

[
Steve from your post here it appears you're appealing the violation you won, about the hard drive, not the one you lost, about the hiring. Help me out here Steve.

I thought that what he was nailed by the Ethics Commission on was the directive that he calls a "request" to the HR director of FC. Strange, he mentions everything else but that in his latest rant.

Absolutely shocking that a man of so much integrity and transparency would misrepresent the facts, except he's done that his entire political career and I guess his wife will no longer cut him a check to pay for his legal expenses and Bost Hogg and Jim Richter went MIA. Sad.

Mike King
Mike King's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/29/2006
Actually Steve...

I post under my name like you, except that I only have one account, but I digress.
Are you in denial concerning your directive to the Human Resource Manager for the county? Wasn't this a major concern of the ethics complaint? Face the fact that you were wrong in overstepping your authority and take personal responsibility by paying your legal fees. To do otherwise places you in the category of yet another Peachtree City politician.

Steve Brown
Steve Brown's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/02/2009
There you go again ...

Just in case someone actually reads the anonymous bloggers below, two investigations revealed that Mr. Bennett was guilty of taking his hard drive out of his county desk top computer (bizarre on its own merits) without authority of the Board of Commissioners (note: John Munford you have the organizational chart and Bennett's employment contract) and had it wiped clean of sensitive legal records covered under the Georgia Opens Records Act.

The investigation from the Marshal's Office also clearly revealed Bennett violated his employment contract with the county on a number of occasions.

Now, my ethics violation, according to Robert Horgan, was reporting stolen county property to the Marshal's Office. Horgan contented I was acting alone, but he never bothered to do any research which would have produced the same evidence as presented at the ethics hearing - I spoke to all four commissioners and got their approval on what appropriate action to take.

It's really a shame we have reached the point where a public official reports stolen property and gets chided for it, having to defend a frivolous complaint.

highflyer2
highflyer2's picture
Offline
Joined: 03/29/2007
If I may Mr. Brown

I would love to share with you an investigation that was conducted by the Marshal's office. Out of the 6 "possible" wrong doings, 4 were proven to be wrong. Were they ever changed? NO!
I guess what I am trying to say is that if you want an unbias and professional investigation please go out of the county to get it, such as the GBI or even the FBI. It is NEVER a good idea to have "fox" investigate the chicken house.

hutch866
hutch866's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/28/2005
Steve Brown

Here you don't go again, funny how when the not anonymous bloggers raise a point, (you remember me don't you Steve), Randy, the A/C guy? You made a point back in the fall, of saying I was the A/C guy. Don't you have anything to say about the ethics violation you were,(dare I say it) convicted of? Are we as taxpayers, on the hook for your legal representation?

Husband and Fat...
Husband and Father of 2's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/23/2012
Mr. Chairman

1. I made no comment about the merits of the missing / whipped hard drive. I admitted in past posts that this was wrong. I also asked what would be the outcome he is found guilty? Want to see if the costs merit the adventure or if this is being done out of spite.

2. Did the ethics hearing require an attorney? No. You chose to do this on your own. Costs Denied.

3. Did the marshals research turn up documentation that the county attorney did back up the hard drive on the county server?

Robert W. Morgan
Robert W. Morgan's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/26/2005
Commissioner's NO vote a victory for maturity

Voting NO to pay for the Chairman's legal defense representation on his ethics violation does 3 things for us - the taxpayers and voters.
1. It shows us that the new commissioners are willing to assert their independence from the Brown strongarm tactics.
2. It saves the taxpayers over $2000 which is apparently being pursued as a principled response to a violation of the old ethics ordinance that they themselves have since changed. You can't have it both ways - pick one.
3. Most importantly, it will become clear to Chairman Brown that it is time to stow away the gadfly act and begin governing. A true sign of maturity.

Robert W. Morgan
Robert W. Morgan's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/26/2005
Oddo, Ognio, Barlow (maybe even McCarty) VOTE NO!!

Vote No on the Chairman's play for some taxpayer dollars to reimburse him for his big mouth. Kinda like Haddix. Just vote no on this. We will respect you in the morning. Or, you could vote yes and enable this donkey for more governmental extremism.

I know you read this stuff on the podium during the boring parts of the meeting (Horgan told me) and so be it.

Just vote no on the legal fees.

Husband and Fat...
Husband and Father of 2's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/23/2012
Question

I just read the agenda for tonights meeting and was thinking. Has anyone ever confirmed or denied that the county attorneys work was saved on the county server?

Yes or No, it really doesn't matter concerning his request for payment. He either sucks it up and pays out of his own pocket like a man or should his buddy's approve payment out of fear, there will be an uproar.

Who does he think he is Mayor Haddix?

Husband and Fat...
Husband and Father of 2's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/23/2012
I predicted this

Pompous Chairman wants Horgan or the taxpayers to pay for his choice to have legal representation when it was not needed. This is Haddix all over again.

If he wanted legal representation he should have asked for permission beforehand. Not after the fact when he develops buyers remorse or is getting the evil eye at home.

I'm sure Barlow will pray for wisdom, but if any of the acolytes approve this payment each need their head examined.

naturegrl
naturegrl's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/19/2012
no legal fees

I agree Husband and Fat. Now comes the test to the other commissioners-Do they repesent the taxpayers or are they just bobble heads.

Citizen_Steve
Citizen_Steve's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/20/2005
Bozos like Horgan

Agreed the commish should have worked out the issue beforehand, but if any clown can file an ethics complaint that deals with on the job issues such as this one, we cannot expect the commissioners to be personally financially liable.

Steve

Mike King
Mike King's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/29/2006
Citizen Steve

You're right that the Commissioner should have worked out the issue beforehand, but we disagree in that in this case Mr Brown should be held financially liable. He chose private representation knowing full well that he may be liable. After all, wasn't he found in violation?
On a larger issue, I would offer that a 'loser pays' judicial/tort system would free up our courts.

John Mrosek
John Mrosek's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/07/2011
Mike King----- I'd like to

Mike King----- I'd like to have a cold one with you. After a string of very good posts (most of which I agree with) you suggest "loser pays". Bad idea, Mike ! Forget the insurance company brainwash; remember the constitutional right to a trial by jury. Parties should be assessed attorneys fees for a frivolous suit, not simply because you lose. As St. Thomas More said before losing his head (literally) to a demanding king, "I give the devil due process of law for the sake of my own safety." Alas, you are forgiven and I do agree with most of your posts.

Mike King
Mike King's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/29/2006
John Mrosek

A cold one sounds good.
I hear your argument regarding 'loser pays', and I understand the right of trial by jury, but that same right does not apply to those who scheme the courts for purely economic benefit. There simply needs to be a filter so as to reduce the mountain of backlog cases pending.