Report: Mayor violated ethics

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Lawrenceville City Attorney Tony Powell delivered a report Monday alleging that Mayor Rex Millsaps committed ethics violations by participating in deliberations and voting on city contracts and projects awarded to Precision Planning, where the mayor is a part-time employee.

The mayor, owner of the local public accounting firm Millsaps & Co., has been on the payroll of the Lawrenceville-based architectural and engineering firm as a part-time accountant for almost 25 years.

He has served as mayor of Lawrenceville since late 2006.

Millsaps also was inappropriately negotiating and administering contracts with Precision Planning, Powell said. This is typically done by city employees, not the mayor, according to the city attorney.

After distributing thick binders containing his fact-finding report and supporting documents to the mayor and council, Powell recommended that the council review and evaluate the report, consider reprimanding Millsaps and establish guidelines to prevent future ethics violations.

Powell had been directed by the council at its Oct. 5 meeting to initiate an investigation into the mayor's potential conflict of interest with Precision Planning.

The council gave Millsaps until its next regular meeting on Jan. 4 to rebut the report and the option to request an extension to the Feb. 1 meeting if he needed more time.

Outgoing Councilman Bob Clark initially urged the council to allow the mayor only until a called meeting at the next work session on Dec. 16 to respond or possibly on Dec. 23.

"This happened on our watch. This council has the responsibility to act on this issue," Clark said.

"The city attorney spent two months gathering this information, and you're giving me only nine days to rebut it," Millsaps said. The mayor added that he has been called for jury duty the week of Dec. 16 and also has some surgical procedures scheduled.

Referring to the city's Code of Ethics, Powell said that public officials and employees must avoid both actual and potential conflicts between the public interest and their private self-interests and refrain from participating in deliberations or voting on any matters involving their financial or personal interests.

In the first instance when a contract with Precision Planning came before Millsaps and the council on Aug. 6, 2007, "the mayor performed correctly," Powell said. Millsaps disclosed his relationship with Precision Planning and recused himself.

Powell proceeded to cite more than a dozen instances when the mayor later participated in debates and deliberations on Precision Planning contracts and two occasions where the mayor cast tie-breaking votes.

The mayor claims he has never tried to hide his relationship with Precision Planning and maintains the two votes in question were well-intentioned mistakes he made to expedite a pedestrian walkway project in October 2007 and save the city $9,000 on a Precision contract in September 2008.

Millsaps said he doesn't receive raises and derives less than 10 percent of his income from Precision Planning. He reported $12,000 in income from Precision in 2008.