Court filings part of Suwanee campaign
Restraining order filed against candidate last year

SUWANEE - The man who has accused Suwanee Mayor Nick Masino of harsh confrontations has a history of heated battles.

Tom McConnell, running for mayor against Dave Williams in the Nov. 6 election, was the subject of a restraining order last year.

McConnell reportedly squabbled with his neighbor at the time, Wentfred Gilleland, over Gilleland's hopes to develop his property.

McConnell said he "had a gun discharged at him," which was reported to Suwanee police, but no arrests were made.

"This is totally ridiculous," Gilleland wrote of the gun accusation in paperwork for the protective order. "In fact, I am the one being harassed and living in fear for my family and myself. I need to be left alone."

Gilleland's property was later rezoned by the city to accommodate a Korean church, but McConnell and two other neighbors have filed a suit to overturn the rezoning.

"All we're trying to do is have the city follow their (own) guidelines," McConnell said about the lawsuit. He said he signed the restraining order and got his own against Gilleland.

"I didn't mind because I never did fire any firearms," he said. "To get this resolved, I was willing to sign anything."

McConnell's complaint against Masino, which alleged confrontations in front of potential voters, was thrown out last week by an investigative committee of the City Council. A McConnell supporter filed another complaint, which will be heard Wednesday, about Masino's support of Williams.

Williams said he did not plan to make an issue out of McConnell's courtroom fights, which also include a threat to sue the city over its sign ordinance, alleging that his campaign signs were pulled in illegal areas while Williams' were not.

But Williams, a former councilman, said he wanted to make sure voters were aware of the candidate's past before the election. His latest campaign flier features the headline: "Leadership or Lawsuits?"

"If Suwanee voters were to find out later ... there would be an incredible outcry," Williams said, pointing out McConnell's history of "confrontation" and "aggressive behavior."

"It's very, very disturbing," Williams continued. "The reason we've accomplished so much (in Suwanee) is we pulled together. For someone to have this sort of pattern and behavior, it's an incredible contrast."

On Williams' "leadership or lawsuits" question, McConnell said, "it's a lot of misrepresentation."

He said he was within his rights to file the lawsuit against the city and to warn leaders about fairly enforcing the sign laws.

In fact, on Monday, McConnell questioned the placement of signs for Williams and Councilman Jimmy Burnette across the street from City Hall, but Elections Supervisor Elvira Rogers said the signs were more than 150 feet from the polling place, as required by state law.

"I don't know why this is so critical at this point," McConnell said about the restraining order, which expired in September 2006. "This is just dirty politics."