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Stockbridge Mayor faces hearing

STOCKBRIDGE — The Stockbridge City Council has now set a public hearing to consider the actions of the city’s embattled mayor.

City leaders voted 4 -1 Thursday evening to hold a hearing to review accusations against Mayor Lee Stuart who has been embroiled in controversy throughout most of his administration. He has been the target of an ethics probe and independent investigation during the past few months.

Councilman Alphonso Thomas, who has supported Stuart in the past, was the lone dissenting voice.

The council passed a resolution establishing procedures for the hearing to consider the results of the investigation and agreed to convene Dec. 10 beginning at 9 a.m., at City Hall.

The Stockbridge Citizens Ethics Board had met Oct. 3 for a hearing on accusations against Stuart, which are part of a six-page document filed by former councilwoman Kathy Gilbert. However, before deliberations resumed, Gilbert withdrew her complaint.

Chris Balch was named to oversee the ethics probe and stayed on as an independent investigator after Gilbert’s complaint was withdrawn. Balch presented his findings Monday morning in a Power Point presentation to the city council. His findings narrowed down more than 20 allegations against Stuart to seven and recommended his removal from office.

Balch alleged Stuart created a hostile work environment for employees and that he disclosed private information about a public officer in the city.

“It is clear that a censure of the mayor has not worked,” said Balch Monday, referring to an action the council took against Stuart in July.

As part of the investigation, Balch said he spoke with 17 witnesses, reviewed videotapes and more than 2,000 pages of documents as part of his investigation. He said Stuart’s actions led to violations of the state’s Open Records Act, the city charter and at least one case of identity theft.

Balch said Stuart attempted to monitor specific employees’ e-mail accounts without authorization and in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The investigator said the employees had a “reasonable expectation of privacy” against such actions.

In response to the investigation, Stuart filed a lawsuit Nov. 15 in Henry County Superior Court and asked for a temporary restraining order to halt Balch’s probe against him. His suit claims the council has violated his rights according to the city charter. Stuart is claiming he has been previously “forced” to bring two lawsuits against the city and had to defend himself against another lawsuit brought by city officials.

Balch alleged Stuart also caused the city to spend $60,000 unnecessarily.

Balch said he believes Stuart released confidential information to the media about Stockbridge Municipal Court in violation of the charter and state law. He added that at least one person has been a victim of identity fraud because of the mayor’s actions. Stockbridge treasurer David Milliron told the Henry Daily Herald he is that person.

A police incident report was filed following the meeting when a mild altercation occurred between a city councilman and an attendee who approached the councilman in protest of the city’s action.

The hearing set for Dec. 10 is open to the public.

Comments

mzholiday 2 years ago

Here are some things that were left out of this article -intentional or not. Councilman Thomas asked the Council why he was asked to sign a newly created form called “Notice to Call a Special Called Meeting”. He stated that he had not seen this form before and that with all the Special Called Meetings this past year, why this time? The Clerk stated that Alarcon sent the form to her. All signed except Thomas. After all, it only takes (3) Council members or the Mayor to call a Special Called meeting. It was obvious that Alarcon wanted it to appear that the entire Council was on board with his plan. Councilman Thomas raised a question about item #1 on the Agenda which was a Resolution that was going to change the procedures under the City’s Charter – Article II – Section 2.17. The question was deferred to the City Attorney. He was vague and unclear as usual. He quoted items from the Charter, but he failed to give an answer. Alarcon then made a motion to adopt the Resolution for Item no. 1 on the Agenda. The Motion was seconded. But get this- the only person with a copy of the Resolution was Alarcon. The Mayor didn’t have a copy, and neither did any other Council member. They were all asked if they had even seen the Resolution. Only Steinberg said that he had seen it but didn’t have a copy. Yet, there was a 2nd to the motion and they were set to vote. OUTRAGEOUS! Councilman Thomas insisted on having a copy of the Resolution. The Mayor directed the Clerk to go and make copies. Councilman Thomas brought it to Mark Alarcon’s attention that just last month when he brought up the Resolution regarding the Black History Program, he made a big deal about receiving a Resolution at the last minute and couldn’t vote on it, as he would need time to study it. CAN YOU SAY HYPOCRIT?! Councilman Thomas asked the City Attorney again to clarify, which he did not. Mark Alarcon then said that Councilman Thomas had spoken for his five minutes and his time to ask questions was over. Councilman Thomas asked the Council if he could have extended time to try to get clarification, and when the Mayor asked Alarcon, Buschman, Steinberg and Cochran if Councilman Thomas could continue to speak, they each declared a resounding NO! Now how many times have we all heard Mark Alarcon go on and on and on rambling for 15- 20 minutes….but as I have stated, THIS COUNCIL changes the rules to suit them. It was the City Attorney’s opinion that the Council could make a change to the Charter with a Resolution – you decide. Article I - Section 1.13: - Exercise of powers. All powers, functions, rights, privileges, and immunities of the city, its officers, agencies, or employees shall be carried into execution as provided by this charter. If this charter makes no provisions, such shall be carried into execution as provided by ordinance or as provided by pertinent laws of the State of Georgia.

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