Former NAACP lawyer goes after Fayette’s attorney on ethics

An ethics complaint against County Attorney Scott Bennett has been lodged by Fayette County residents Richard and Judith Moore.

The complaints center on a beef between Bennett and the Moores’ attorney, Wayne Kendall, who at one point represented several other county residents and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in a still-pending lawsuit filed against the county that seeks to enact district voting in lieu of at-large voting in Fayette County for seats on the county commission and the board of education.

Kendall filed the ethics complaint on behalf of the Moores, alleging three separate instances in which he thinks Bennett violated the county’s ethics ordinance. The complaint claims that Bennett solicited Peachtree City attorney Richard P. Lindsey to file a lawsuit that resulted in adoption of a new five-district map for county commission seats in May. It also alleges Bennett approved the payment of attorneys fees to Lindsey stemming from that lawsuit totaling $3,850.

The complaint also accuses Bennett of “several acts of dishonesty” and contemplates that he also violated ethical rules of the Georgia Bar.

Bennett briefly mentioned the ethics complaint at the commission’s Oct. 11 meeting, saying that he was anxious for the matter to be heard and that he was confident he had conducted himself accordingly.

Bennett also accused Kendall of trying to extort the county by threatening to file legal paperwork opposing the May adoption of the county’s new five-district map for county commission seats along with bar and ethics complaints against Bennett. Bennett said Kendall made those threats in conjunction with wishes for the county to withdraw opposition to the new five-district map for board of education seats that the NAACP wanted approved by a federal court in a lawsuit filed by the NAACP and several residents that seeks to enforce district voting.

“I’ve been open, I have disclosed everything that I’ve done with Rick Lindsey, I haven’t hidden anything,” Bennett told the commission. “... It’s frustrated when you’re being attacked by somebody who’s trying to extort you to get you to do something that your client doesn’t want to do.”

Bennett also noted that there was a court order in the case to pay the attorney’s fees to Lindsey, and he argued that he could not ignore that court order.

According to the ethics ordinance, the commission must appoint three regular board of ethics members, and also two alternates to serve on the matter. The board will be empowered to take one of six options:

• No admonishment and no further action;

• A public reprimand and admonishment not to violate the ethics code in the future;

• A formal reprimand;

• Public censure;

• Recommendation for termination, resignation or recall; or

• Recommendation for prosecution in the State Court of Fayette County.

The board can also decide to “admonish, formally reprimand, publicly censure” any complaining party who files a petition determined to be “unjustified, frivolous, patently unfounded or factually insufficient.”

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