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Board: Mayor Didn't Violate Ethics Code

Kennesaw's Board of Ethics voted to dismiss a complaint filed against Mayor Mark Mathews.

The , determining that the allegations in the complaint don’t violate the city’s Code of Ethics.

In the complaint, , one allegation was that Mathews used his city-issued cell phone for personal business. Scott Cochran, an attorney advising the board, said that, while the city’s personnel policy prohibits employees from using city property for personal business, elected officials aren’t considered employees.

“A city supervisor can’t terminate an elected official,” Cochran said. “They can’t lose that position through a disciplinary procedure.”

Cochran said that he’s always seen incidental use of property belonging to an employer for personal business to be OK as long as it is primarily used for work.

“Some of us here got emails to our work email accounts about this meeting,” Cochran said. “Clearly, this has nothing to do with your work. I don’t know what happens if an employee gets a personal email or call. Sure, if they get (enough) personal calls that it turns into a personal phone, that’s one thing, but incidental use is another.”

In his complaint, Ermutlu also alleged that a conflict of interest occurred when City Manager Steve Kennedy told the city’s that it now will dispatch all medical calls to MetroAtlanta Ambulances, rather than those run by Georgia EMS. Mathews works for MetroAtlanta Ambulance while Ermutlu works for Georgia EMS.

Terri Copeland, who chairs the Board of Ethics, said that the state of Georgia dictates what ambulance services municipalities use and that the local governments have no say.

“It’s my understanding that the city doesn’t have any control over it,” Copeland said. “It’s mandated by the state.”

The city’s conflict of interest section in its Code of Ethics deals with disclosure before official action is taken by the city council. If the council had voted to change ambulance services, Mathews would have had to disclose before a vote that he works for a local ambulance service.

“My understanding is that there isn’t a contract,” Cochran said. “These code sections don’t apply. There wasn’t any violation because there wasn’t any action taken.”

In an amendment to his complaint, Ermutlu cited two text messages sent to him from Mathews after the complaint was filed with the city clerk. Ermutlu said the messages, in which Mathews asked to meet to discuss the complaint, were inappropriate and violated the city’s Code of Ethics by making contact.

However, Cochran said that part of dispute resolution includes a meeting between both sides.

“I’ve never gone into court without talking to the other side,” he said. “I don’t see any hard and fast rule in the ethics code prohibiting this, and I’d venture to say it’s encouraged. We haven’t gone that far in this country to say you can’t talk about your differences.”

During the hearing, which lasted slightly more than an hour, Mathews’ attorney, Lance LoRusso, asked to speak and told the board he had drafted a document that likely would clear up any questions they had. When LoRusso spoke, one man said, “Madame Chairman, you said no one would be allowed to speak.” Another stood and demanded LoRusso’s Georgia Bar Association number.

Cochran said the meeting’s minutes would reflect that LoRusso asked to address the board and that his request was denied.

“I think if we open up public comment what would be fair is that both sides get to speak, and we’re not here to do that,” Cochran said. “I hate to cut anybody off, but I think this is the proper decision.”

After the hearing, LoRusso said that the board fulfilled their obligation to meet.

“Really, to comment any further than that is to kind of usurp the power of the board and (its) authority,” he said.

Ermutlu said he thought misdeeds had been done.

“I took the course that a citizen is afforded to file a complaint,” he said. “It was up to the board to decide, and they decided.”

While the board ruled that Mathews didn’t violate any city laws, it didn’t have the jurisdiction to review state law. Ermutlu said he hasn’t determined if he will take his complaint to another entity.

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Debra Williams August 15, 2012 at 12:09 AM
The voter registration list is public record and can be purchased by individuals running for office. Not the information as to whom you voted for or any items you voted on, simply the area and the names of registered voters. This is how you receive the MANY mailers from those running for political office that list your name on it. They also know which party affiliation you are registered under, so you see, there was no 'secret back room meeting' to find this information. Let me state for clarity, I'm not on a side, I'm simply clearing up a misunderstanding as to how one can find that information. Assume - to take for granted or without proof. Let's not make our arguments based on these. Please review this policy on purchasing the voter registration list. http://sos.georgia.gov/elections/voter_registration/voter_reg_lists.htm
John Himot August 15, 2012 at 01:29 AM
Thank you Debra I knew about the list and how to get it, My problem is I think it is odd that our mayor thinks enough of me to look into my voting record as I question his ethics which I a very serious problem with. My voting record is sound and conservative . I have meet with Brain Kemp many times over the years and hope to meet with him again soon.
John Himot August 15, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Hoping most can make it to the meeting tomorrow night. I am trying to make a change in my plans so I can also be there as well. I hope many are there to ask the questions that need to be asked , I hoping some of you can help Cris E. with getting our ethics rules in order with other city's the size of Kennesaw. Ethics in Government should not have to be written because those who serve at our leisure should know right from wrong written or not. It comes down to just this. DO THE RIGHT THING and know one can call you on ethics violations. Hoping to see many of you tomorrow night. Together we can keep Kennesaw a great place to live and brag about how our leaders try and do the right thing even if they are not written in black and white.
Debra Williams August 23, 2012 at 01:04 AM
Hey John - I posted the link so that anyone who didn't know could click and go to it. Unfortunately there are many who make statements based on assumptions and state it as fact. I'm glad to know you are familiar with it and know where to go to get it. I believe ALL citizens should take great interest and action in their government. We have given over much of our authority to those sitting in office and allowed them to carte blanc make decisions based on their own moral and ethic codes (which everyone has their own) and may differ from our own completely. If those who serve truly understood their position is to serve and not be served, have open communication with the people who voted them in, and use common sense when doing the business of the city - our fair city would prosper beyond imagination and not spend so much time trying to prove to others we're innocent. Our elected officials need to get back to the business of the city and keep their personal gains, vendettas, etc. out of their serving. When one is guilty (proven beyond a shadow of a doubt and with proof to back it up) then YES, without a doubt should resign, and if they don't have the decency to resign then enough citizens can recall and force an impeachment. If it can be done to a President, then any other elected official serving should be held to the same criteria. What happens in the dark always comes to the light. The truth will be revealed, it always does.
Eileen Alberstadt August 23, 2012 at 01:18 AM
Hey John Himot, do you have contact info or can you contact me directly? I agree with Debra 100%. She is smart and she and I have been friends for a number of years now and I highly respect that woman and her opinion. My direct email is ealberstadt@comcast.net Thank you.

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