Snellville amends city code of ethics

City of Snellville City Hall

City of Snellville City Hall

SNELLVILLE — City Council members voted Monday to change the city’s code of ethics, a move aimed at culling frivolous and politically motivated ethics complaints from those that deserve merit.

In a meeting chaired by councilwoman and temporarily elected mayor pro tem Diane Krause, the vote was 3-1 in favor of the proposed amendment. Councilman Mike Sabbagh cast the only vote in opposition to the measure.

“This quick change will resolve situations on the short horizon, but not long term,” Sabbagh said explaining his opposition to the change. Stating his desire for more information from city attorney Tony Powell and more time to review it, Sabbagh said that he would not “consciously be able to support (the amendment).”

Powell stated that the change to the code was a direct action taken following a 230-page complaint filed months ago against Tom Witts.

“It was evident to me that it was frivolous,” Powell said, adding that self-proclaimed “ethics watchdog” George Anderson has, after much legal wrangling and procedure, apologized for his complaint, admitting that there was no basis for it.

The problem with such baseless accusations is that the damage has already been done to the innocent party, Powell said during Monday’s meeting. “This change stops frivolous complaints before they can get that far.”

“Frankly, I’m surprised Mr. Sabbagh would oppose this change, considering the fact that there’s an outstanding ethics complaint against him,” Councilman Dave Emanuel said.

“This (change) is not intended to stop proper pursuit of valid complaints,” Powell said, adding that he hopes this action by the council will set an example for other cities in Georgia who face the same problem — politically motivated ethics complaints, not those filed for valid infractions.

“It was very brave of this council to take this fight on,” Powell said.

Two items were removed from Monday’s meeting agenda at the outset of the proceedings, one proposed by Kelley Kautz that read, “Discussion and Acton to Rescind the Approval for Order for Declaratory Judgment,” in essence, an action that would rescind Anderson’s apology and statement until a hearing scheduled for Oct. 5. Three council members voted to remove that item from the agenda; Sabbagh opposed its removal.

Anderson did not appear at the council meeting, though his name was listed as a speaker under ”Public Comments” on the agenda.

The other item removed from the agenda, listed under “New Business,” was discussion and possible action on the same matter involving Anderson, Witts and Emanuel.

Snellville resident Dennis Lawton admonished the council to keep the ordinance and any changes “simple” and straightforward.

Mayor Kelly Kautz was not present at Monday’s meeting, and mayor pro tem Tom Witts was absent because of a family emergency. Krause was elected to steer Monday’s meeting during the work session that preceded the council meeting.

STAT events scheduled, rescheduled

STAT chairwoman Kelly McAloon said Monday that the two city events that had been scheduled for Saturday and canceled because of rain will be handled differently. The International Festival will not be rescheduled, and the Popcorn in the Park movie “Brave” will be shown at 6:30 on Oct. 11 on the Towne Green.

City residents, property and business owners have until Oct. 5 to enter their own scarecrow creations, all of which will be displayed throughout the city. The entry fee is $20. At the city’s Fall Festival on Oct. 26, the winning scarecrows will be announced, and every scarecrow entered in the contest will be auctioned to festival patrons. Auction proceeds will benefit the southeast Gwinnett co-op.