Fayette to pick ethics board to hear complaint against county attorney Bennett

Fayette County commissioners are expected to appoint three ethics board members and two alternates so a hearing may be convened on a complaint lodged against Fayette County Attorney Scott Bennett.

The commission is expected to appoint the ethics board members at its Nov. 7 workshop meeting.

The complaint against Bennett was filed by attorney Wayne Kendall on behalf of residents Richard and Judith Moore, claiming 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.

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.

“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 frustrating 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 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.

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, who formerly represented the NAACP in the district voting lawsuit before he was recently removed from the case, made those threats in conjunction with a request 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 which seeks to enforce district voting.

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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