STOCKBRIDGE — Former City Councilwoman Kathy Gilbert said her allegations of unethical conduct by Mayor Lee Stuart “speak for themselves.” Stuart, however, denies any wrongdoing.
Gilbert levied accusations against the mayor Wednesday during a hearing before the Citizens Ethics Board. Deliberations in the hearing are scheduled to continue Oct. 15 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.
Gilbert, who lost a re-election bid 2011, said Stuart has violated Article 2, Section 2.16 of the Stockbridge charter and Chapter 2.40.040 of the Code of Ordinances. Both codes address actions prohibited for city officials.
“He has willfully and intentionally violated his oath of office,” said Gilbert. She is representing herself in the hearing while Stuart is represented by his attorney, Joe Cloud.
Gilbert said Stuart disclosed confidential information from Henry County Police about security in Municipal Court.
Stuart said the information was not confidential but was “for official use only.” He said police did not have authority to declare documents confidential.
Ethics Board member Judy Neal questioned Stuart regarding whether the threat assessment had been de-classified as sensitive. Stuart said it was “for official use only” and that his position allowed him to use the documents as he saw fit.
Gilbert said Stuart was “acting in a manner that is detrimental to the city” and called for his removal as mayor.
Gilbert said Stuart deleted public documents from city computers. Cloud said Gilbert’s assertions were not based on firsthand knowledge.
“You’re just assuming that the e-mails were destroyed simply because they were not produced,” said Cloud.
Cloud said Gilbert had not met the burden of proof because her evidence was “based on hearsay.” The attorney alleged Gilbert wants to hurt the mayor.
“Her whole evidence is the city did not produce these e-mails,” said Cloud.
Gilbert said her evidence was authenticated by open records at City Hall and maintained her claim that the mayor destroyed documents. She said she has other information to support that claim which is not included in her complaint.
Cloud said Stuart is not responsible for making sure Gilbert received documents she requested through open records.
Stuart, when questioned by his attorney, denied deleting e-mails from city servers.
“I have no idea what a server looks like,” the mayor said.
Another element of Gilbert’s complaint centered on T-shirts from a city event. Gilbert alleged that Stuart profited from the sale of the shirts to a resident.
Cloud said although the T-shirts can be sold, they were given away instead.
“It’s absurd that this is the basis for an ethics complaint,” said Cloud.
Gilbert and Cloud disagreed on whether to use “clear and convincing evidence” as the standard of proof in the case as opposed to “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Cloud said Gilbert alleged the mayor committed felonies while in office.
Gilbert, however, said the “reasonable doubt” standard belongs in a court of law and not in an ethics hearing. She said she expects “a fair and just response” from the Ethics Board.
Cloud said he is glad the board is taking time to consider the case against his client.
“We think the decision is pretty obvious based on the evidence that was presented,” said Cloud. “It’s all frivolous. It’s a waste of the time of taxpayers in Stockbridge. We need to get back to governing the city and stop fighting about these kinds of things.”