Tuesday, August 14, 2012
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Gwinnett Daily Post
SNELLVILLE -- A Gwinnett County Superior Court judge will be asked to interpret the city of Snellville's ethics ordinance and issue a declaratory judgement as relates to issues facing Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts.
In June. Ethics in Governement Group director George Anderson held a press conference lodging ethics accusations against Witts, who has admitted he did not disclose the $28,000 he owed the state in back taxes when he was sworn in as a Snellville city councilman in 2009. Witts has said the money was from a 401K disbursement taken after his wife got laid off in 2007.
Despite Anderson's complaints, the actions may not be an actual violation of Snellville ordinances.
"There does not appear to be a valid ethics claim that the council could act on," City Attorney Tony Powell said during Monday's city council meeting.
Nevertheless, Powell recommended permission to ask for a declaratory judgement from a superior court judge, which the council approved with a 4-2 vote. The judgement basically tells the city of Snellville how to proceed should a formal ethics complaint be filed by Anderson.
Mayor Kelly Kautz and Councilman Mike Sabbagh were the two dissenting votes.
"I don't believe it is a superior court judge's place at this point in time to tell us if we need to do something or not," Kautz said, also expressing concern about using taxpayer dollars for Powell to represent Witts in legal proceedings. "This council first needs to review it and decide if there's anything for us to do."
Councilman Bobby Howard did the speaking for the "yes" voters.
"We depend on our city attorney to give us good advice on when we should or shouldn't do certain things," Howard said. "...To me we have to trust and believe in what he's decided."
Anderson, who was listed for public comment at Monday's meeting, was not present when his time came to speak.