LAWRENCEVILLE -- The Lawrenceville City Council on Monday passed a resolution stating that the evidence did not support allegations that Mayor Rex Millsaps violated the city's Code of Ethics.
The council's 3-0 vote followed a response by Millsaps at the council's Monday meeting to a report delivered by City Attorney Tony Powell at the council's Dec. 7 meeting alleging that the mayor violated the ethics code by participating in deliberations and voting on city contracts awarded to Precision Planning where the mayor is a part-time employee.
The resolution absolving the mayor was proposed by Councilman Mike Crow. Council members Marie Beiser and Katie Hart Smith voted for the motion along with Crow.
Councilman P.K. Martin, who was sworn in to a third two-year term and named mayor pro tem for 2010, presided over the part of the meeting where the resolution was acted upon. Smith was sworn in to her first term on the council.
Millsaps excused himself from the meeting after delivering his response.
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. 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.
In his response Millsaps said he had disclosed his relationship with Precision Planning the first time a contract with Precision Planning came up for a vote while he was mayor on Aug. 7, 2007, and had recused himself. He stated he holds no fiduciary position at Precision Planning and has no direct ownership interest in the company.
The mayor also maintained that his two tie-breaking votes involving Precision Planning were based on the city's best interests. One of the votes was later corrected after Powell realized it was a mistake and called it to the council's attention.
Millsaps questioned why Powell had only advised the council of possible ethics violations on the one occasion.
"Powell has not shown and cannot show where any vote taken by the city council in which I participated in the vote has ever resulted in one dime of income going to Precision Planning," Millsaps said.
The mayor concluded that his response clearly demonstrated that he never materially or intentionally violated the city's code of ethics.
"I have never tried to persuade any member of this council on how to vote on any matter concerning Precision Planning," the mayor further said. "The only part in any deliberation that I can remember was for the purpose of clarification."
The mayor charged that Powell wanted to remove him from office because Millsaps had reduced his law firm's fees.
David Gussio, a member of Powell's law firm, was appointed interim city attorney. Powell, who had indicated he planned to step down as city attorney, apparently was not reappointed by the council. Gussio said the council had not decided whether to continue retaining Webb, Tanner, Powell, Mertz & Wilson to handle the city's legal affairs.
Powell, who has served as the city's attorney for 25 years, said after the meeting that he stands by his report. Millsaps should have disclosed his relationship with Precision Planning each time a vote came up and recused himself, according to Powell.
"I hope it won't happen again," Powell said.
The council is responsible for policing itself and enforcing the city's ethics code, Powell said. "I'm not the ethics police."