The City of Milledgeville’s Board of Ethics has set a date to hear specifics on the pending ethics complaint against a city official.
Ethics board members Mike Holmes, vice president and dean of academics at Georgia Military College, Charles Moore, a retired attorney, and board chair Patricia Hicks, a retired prison warden for the state, convened in the City Hall chambers to discuss the ethics complaint filed by local resident Danielle Fields, a downtown business owner, against City Councilman Phillip Joiner of District 4.
The board went into a closed meeting Tuesday afternoon to receive legal advice regarding the actual charges before determining two of the three allegations within the complaint to be within the ordinance.
The board will further investigate 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.
The ethics board will collect evidence and add findings and results of the investigation to the complaint file. Joiner will be notified of the allegations prior to the first hearing held by the ethics board and has the right to submit evidence and call his own witnesses. Findings will pass on to Mayor Richard Bentley and council for action based solely on the presence of a discernible ethics violation.
“We could have a meeting prior to the hearing, but none is scheduled. The board will request documents for evidence in moving forward with their investigation leading up to the hearing date,” said Jimmy Jordan, city attorney. “Fields and will have the opportunity to present any evidence she has and call witnesses, and Joiner will also have the right to call witnesses if he so chooses.”
The board set the hearing at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 16 at City Hall. The hearing date was extended past the 60 days due to schedule conflicts.
“Fields filed the initial complaint on May 3rd, but she failed to verify the ordinance. On May 7th she verified, so the 60-day time frame stated in the ordinance would have been up July 6th. From the board’s standpoint, the July 4th week they were not able to come up with a date they could get together and a date they thought they could get witnesses. The ordinance allows them to extend dates so they chose to extend the hearing date by 10 days beyond the 60-day period. They could extend the date again if they were not able to get evidence in,” Jordan explained. “Then the board has seven days from that date to submit a report to the mayor and council.”
The 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 last June.