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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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Eileen Alberstadt July 26, 2012 at 05:32 AM
It is with regret that I am resigning from The City of Kennesaw, Board of Ethics effective immediately. I feel that during the Ethics Board Meeting that took place on Tues, I was pretty much blindsided me as a board member as were the entire board. This was for City Employees and not Elected Officials. The outburst of Council for Mayor Mathews was uncalled for. If he would have paid attention, he would have heard how it was going. If his council would have been able to speak, he would of had to have been paid from the City of Kennesaw. I felt uncomfortable from the moment I walked in the door until I got in my car after the meeting. I do not feel very ethical about my City anymore nor do I like the back stabbing going on and while games are being played with lives. It makes me sick, I came from a family where my father was a highly respected surgeon and he would be rolling in his grave to hear that lives are being played with by certain people in this city where I chose to live and be on the Ethics Board and just do not give a flip about lives, rather its all about control. Ethics? Some higher ups in this City need to really look up the word and abide by it. This all makes me sick. I do not hold Terri Copeland or any other Ethics Board member accountable for this action. The entire board was blindsided. They have been a great board to work with and after seven years, I feel it would be unethical for me to stay and yes I do leave in tears. Best Regards Eileen Alberstadt
Cady Schulman July 26, 2012 at 01:28 PM
Eileen, can you please send me an email at cady.schulman@gmail.com? I'd really appreciate it.
Debra Williams July 26, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Eileen. How could this Board have been blindsided? Were they given all the paperwork prior to the meeting? Upon review of that information, If the Ethics Board is, as you say, for Employees and not elected officials, could the Board not have denied hearing the charges (or case as it may be) and presented the stipulations in which they exists? I came in late, and within a few seconds realized that this process seemed to be over the heads of the Board, and now understanding it was created to hear Employee cases only, I understand. I do agree, the sitting Attorney carried the meeting rather than the Chairman, which is disturbing, and I also understand it's a little intimidating to most people to have an audience however, when we accept these appointments we should always assume there will be an audience and, as professionals, not allow that to interfere with our abilities to do our job. I've learned that our decisions will not please everyone, yet I also believe, popular or not, we are charged with a job and must do it for those we are representing. If this committee was not to hear this charge/case based on their Board guidelines, responsibilities, etc., then someone on the Board should have stepped up and challenged the hearing rather than muddle through it. If the Codes aren't clear, then someone dropped the ball in the development of the Codes and that error must be resolved with expediency. It's sad our City is being divided by a situation that could have been avoided.
JACQUE July 26, 2012 at 03:25 PM
I wasn't there but my experience has been that once people get these appoinments to city committees they become sheeple. Sounds like that's what happened in this case.
Eileen Alberstadt July 26, 2012 at 03:45 PM
The sitting Attorney did carry this meeting. We were set for a meeting on City Ethics Codes and then we were told that we had to follow State Ethics Codes which supercede. Debra, there has not been a formal ethics complaint in this city in many years and from what I understand at least not in the last 20 years. Our Chairman was blindsided just as I was. And no, we can not deny a hearing and dealing with the complaints. I for one think the appointed attorney should have come from another county and not within Cobb. "COBB IS COBB" My appointment was to address City Ethics Codes not State. PS: I don't think any of the board ever verified if the Mayors paycheck came on a W-2 or a 1099. At this point, I am out and I do hope this matter does get taken care of. All I see is a City falling apart.
Debra Williams July 26, 2012 at 07:07 PM
Were you guys given the State Codes prior to the meeting, and who determines the sitting Attorney? How hard is it to find out if he is W-2 or 1099, that should have been pretty easy to get and should have been the Chairman's job. I don't believe she was well prepared to inform the rest of the Committee. Sorry this situation has cost the City so much already in both time, expenses, and volunteers.
Eileen Alberstadt July 26, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Its over Debra. We can not question State Codes. We are a City. The Mayor and Council from what I understand chose the Atty. As to whether he was a W-2 or a 1099, I do not know if she knew. As for expenses, I have no clue about the cost nor do I really care at this point. I am off the Board. I just feel that Ethics in the City of Kennesaw does need some revamping and rewriting to be in accordance with the other cities equal to Kennesaw. By God I will stand by this City to see that these changes get done if needed.
Patricia July 26, 2012 at 10:02 PM
I do want to remind everyone that this was a 'work session' of the Ethics Board. Sunshine Law requires that the work sessions are open to the public, but not for public comment. If a Hearing is scheduled, then there may be comments allowed. (Yes, I served previously on that board, but no longer after my term expired in 2011.) Though some folks may think they were unprepared, they did know this issue was coming before them. The purpose of this meeting was to look at the Codes in light of the filing that had been submitted. Again, this was the _work session_ for this incident. The Code does require that Counsel (an attorney) be appointed to assist with the 'legal-ese'. Members are appointed by various elected officials of the Mayor and Council from a ~wide variety of people~; no one elected official appoints all the members. These committee members volunteer their time and energy. Please do not attack them personally for adhering to the current Code. If the Ethics Code needs to be changed, that is another issue and should be done through the appropriate channels.
Sam July 26, 2012 at 11:54 PM
"I just feel that Ethics in the City of Kennesaw does need some revamping and rewriting to be in accordance with the other cities equal to Kennesaw." OK, I have to ask, how do you even know where "the other cities equal to Kennesaw" stand on this issue?? The fact that the Ethics committee was clueless is the fault of the committee for being unprepared.
Patricia July 27, 2012 at 01:58 PM
I thought my comment posted yesterday. Apparently, I am not as tech-savvy as I thought. ---------- I do want to remind everyone that this was a 'work session' of the Ethics Board. Sunshine Law requires that the work sessions are open to the public, but not for public comment. If a Hearing is scheduled, then there may be comments allowed. (I served previously on that board, but no longer after my term expired in 2011.) Though some folks may think the members were unprepared, they did know this issue was coming before them. The purpose of this meeting was to look at the Codes in light of the filing that had been submitted. Again, this was the _work session_ for this incident. This is the first time the Board had the charges in from of them to compare with the existing Code. The Code does require that Counsel (an attorney) be appointed to assist with the 'legal-ese'. Members are appointed by various elected officials of the Mayor and Council from a ~wide variety of people~; no one elected official appoints all the members. These committee members volunteer their time and energy. Please do not attack them personally for adhering to the current Code. If the Ethics Code needs to be changed, that is another issue and can/should be done through the appropriate channels. Two or three years ago, the Board did examine Kennesaw's current code in light of neighboring municipalities and the state. Some changes were made, but it could be time for another review.
Patricia July 27, 2012 at 02:00 PM
** "in ~front~ of them"
Dent Myers July 27, 2012 at 10:34 PM
RE: ETHICS COMMITTEE ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- If you own the cards, you can stack the deck...... -WILDMAN
Eileen Alberstadt July 28, 2012 at 12:14 AM
Hey Dent, you hit the nail on the head. From your Yankee Shirt Buyer! Thank you again. They loved them.
Erik Mathis July 28, 2012 at 04:49 AM
Everyone, and every entity, and yes even processes is freely open to scrutiny in America. You are not the moral police.
Gary Weaver July 28, 2012 at 06:42 AM
It sounds like you need to consider getting back with the ethics board Patricia. You seem to do your homework. Just reading some of these comments is very amusing. "Hawk sitting on a fencepost" and "city falling apart". It seems to me a board met to hear facts and to determine if they needed to meet again for a formal hearing. It is very common in meetings for a Chairperson to pass control over to Counsel with legal issues. At the meeting the masses showed up thinking they were going to see a public execution, figuratively of course. I presume this is what spooked Eileen. With the disappointment of the crowd she had to play Pilot and wash her hands for self preservation in her mind. Eileen, I don't know, you seem to be a very nice person but one who goes along with a crowd and gets very passionate trying to prove your point. You certainly needed to ask questions if you had doubts. Instead of reading up on the ethics laws you just went along with the crowd. That is too bad and now you are looking to blame someone else for your short comings. At least you did the right thing and resigned. I thought watching Henry in Acworth was fun. I need to travel south a little more.
John Himot July 28, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Mark what would you have said if they ruled against you. I for one will be looking at everything the city does . You have for the first time made me not trust my City Govt. and those who serve in it. Why can you not do as the ethics board member did and resign . Lets make Kennesaw a City we can trust once again . You will not be elected to another term or any other office in the years to come. People are starting to talk about you and it is not good. Never forget you SERVE the people of Kennesaw you are not above any rule or law you work for us not the Ambulance Company in anything to do with the city. We the People are keeping a close eye on you from now on.
John Himot July 29, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Mark do all of Kennesaw a favor and resign. Let's keep Kennesaw about open and honest Government and not hidden agendas. Kennesaw deserves much better then you.
John Himot July 29, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Eileen it is tax payer money we should all care how much it cost.
John Himot July 29, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Could not have said it better Wildman, our city is out of control with bad ethics. The Mayor needs to step down .
John Himot July 29, 2012 at 11:47 PM
Dent needs to create a shirt that lets people know our city Government is not very ethical and needs to step down. Mark do us all a favor step down as Mayor so WE THE PEOPLE do not have to ask you to.
Mark Mathews August 13, 2012 at 07:36 PM
John, Thanks for the words of support. It's amazing to me how quickly you and others are to judge on an issue that you have no clue about other than the rumor mill that you choose to listen to. I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and address any questions or concerns you might have regarding any issue. As for stepping down, the only people that need to step down are the ones that have launched this inappropriate character attack on me over an issue that they are emotionally attached to and looking for someone to blame. It seems that some people don't want to hear the truth. I will be hosting a Town Hall meeting this Thursday at the Ben Robertson Community Center and would welcome your attendance and input.
John Himot August 14, 2012 at 03:49 AM
Mark your post has proven how much of a loser you realy are. Next go around many to include myself will make sure you do not get re-elected to any post in the city. You know what you did and now your a lashing back like a child . Never forget you are a PUBLIC SERVENT and we are not here to serve you. Unfortunately I will be out of town at the time of the Town Hall meeting. I would love to be there but duty calls at present . Look deep into yourself Mark I am sure you will not like what you see, I know many of us in the city surely do not. Good Luck on your town hall meeting I just hope the right people are there to ask the right questions of their Public Servent. . I guess with your post that means you will not step down as our Mayor? Sad you do not truly care for our fair city as much I would have hoped you would.
Mark Mathews August 14, 2012 at 03:02 PM
John, or whatever your real name is. Your post has proven how much of a loser you really are. I find it quite odd that you (at least under the name you use) have not voted in a city of Kennesaw election even once in the last 10 years. You seem to imply that you are a long time resident and voter. You are like most that post on this and other sites, posting baseless inaccurate allegations that are under the cover of an alias or "stage name" incomplete and without any facts to back them up and when confronted or asked to meet in person always seem to be conveniently unavailable. I have looked "deep into" myself and am quite satisfied with what I see. I, unlike you apparently, will never be perfect and have always learned from my challenges and mistakes. I do serve at the pleasure of the voters in Kennesaw and will continue to serve until they decide with their votes that I am no longer meeting their needs. I have a deep passion and care for this city and will not sit back and let people like you attempt to tear down the many great things we have done and will continue to do. Your childish statements will not change my care and passion for this city. The invitation will remain open for you to meet with me in person to address any specific claims you may have against me. I'm sure you are also one that enjoys having the last word, so it's all yours! See you around town "John".
John Himot August 14, 2012 at 03:57 PM
So I see now you are using your title as Mayor to look into my voting history. That in itself would constitute a ethics question to many. I am sorry I can not make it to the town hall due to a MILITARY TDY at that time. But trust me I will have people in place to see how you answer the questions that I beleave will be coming forth during this time. Your reply to my post has shown you to be the child. For anyone who is reading this I ask that you go to the town hall meeting with the mayor and see what he has to say. As for the last word mayor your welcome to come back at any time and let me know why you think I am wrong about you.
John Himot August 14, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Our mayor in action: Mark Mathews August 14, 2012 John, or whatever your real name is. Your post has proven how much of a loser you really are. I find it quite odd that you (at least under the name you use) have not voted in a city of Kennesaw election even once in the last 10 years. You seem to imply that you are a long time resident and voter. You are like most that post on this and other sites, posting baseless inaccurate allegations that are under the cover of an alias or "stage name" incomplete and without any facts to back them up and when confronted or asked to meet in person always seem to be conveniently unavailable. I have looked "deep into" myself and am quite satisfied with what I see. I, unlike you apparently, will never be perfect and have always learned from my challenges and mistakes. I do serve at the pleasure of the voters in Kennesaw and will continue to serve until they decide with their votes that I am no longer meeting their needs. I have a deep passion and care for this city and will not sit back and let people like you attempt to tear down the many great things we have done and will continue to do. Your childish statements will not change my care and passion for this city. The invitation will remain open for you to meet with me in person to address any specific claims you may have against me. I'm sure you are also one that enjoys having the last word, so it's all yours! See you around town "John".
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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