MILLEDGEVILLE — The hearing date for the pending ethics complaint filed against City Councilman Phillip Joiner, District 4, by local downtown business owner Danielle Fields will continue as scheduled regardless of Joiner’s recent announcement to not seek reelection.
City attorney Jimmy Jordan said Tuesday that the ethics process is not impacted by Joiner’s intentions for the District 4 seat after his current term expires Dec. 31.
“As far as ethics board proceedings, [Joiner’s decision] will have no impact on what the board will do as far as the complaint that is currently pending because the complaint involves alleged conduct from his current term,” Jordan said. “What he does or does not do as far as seeking reelection does not have bearing on these proceedings. He is a city councilman until his term ends, and the ethics board is looking at the complaint that has been filed relative to his existing term.”
Fields said Tuesday that Joiner’s announcement regarding his future on the District 4 seat does not discourage her from moving forward with the ethics complaint process.
“I want to see this process through completion. It would discourage me if the process wasn’t complete,” she said. “This is supposed to be about the community, and the ethics process is part of that. When the ethics process is complete, whether it’s in my favor or in his favor, that would be a win for the community. My bigger fear is that [Joiner is] going to move to another community and do the same thing.”
The Board of Ethics initially scheduled the hearing Tuesday, July 16, but delayed the proceedings after Joiner’s attorney, Donald Oulsnam of Frier & Oulsnam in Milledgeville, requested for a continuance.
The hearing is now scheduled at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20 in the Municipal Courtroom at the Milledgeville Police Department located at 125 E. McIntosh St.
Fields and Joiner have the right to submit evidence and call their own witnesses during the hearing. Findings will pass on to Mayor Richard Bentley and Council for action based solely on the presence of a discernible ethics violation.
“The ethics board will take evidence and issue one of three recommendations to Council — take no action, Joiner being reprimanded, or ask Joiner to resign,” Jordan said.
The Board of Ethics is moving forward with two of the three allegations within the complaint that were within the ordinance, including allegations against Joiner regarding wasteful spending, lack of timely compliance with Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) mandated training, neglect of courses paid for by the City of Milledgeville (Section B) and expenditures in conjunction with Main Street conference in Des Moines, Iowa in May 2011 (Section C). The board determined the harassment allegations in Section A of the complaint did not fall under the ethics ordinance.
“Looking from the outside in, this looks like an intimidating process, but the next time it’s not going to go like this because I’m the first one filing a complaint and [everybody is learning as we go]. I know the ethics board is working really hard to make this as smooth as possible,” Fields said of the process. “[The Board of Ethics] wants the community to have faith in doing this. We have to take advantage of this process and call our leaders out when they are doing inappropriate things. I’m excited to see where this will go in the future.”
The city’s code of ethics relates to travel, representation and business dealings of city employees, elected officials, appointees and volunteers with the purpose to encourage high ethical standards in official conduct, while also setting guidelines, seeking disclosure and providing terms of discipline for those who refuse to abide by the policy’s terms. The City of Milledgeville officially became a City of Ethics within the GMA in June 2012.
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