STOCKBRIDGE — Former Stockbridge councilwoman Kathy Gilbert said this week she thinks Mayor Lee Stuart is stalling for more time to defend himself against allegations of ethical violations.
The Citizens Ethics Board met Thursday to hear claims by Gilbert against Stuart.
Before testimony could be heard, difficulties with sound equipment at City Hall led the board to postpone the hearing.
It was reset for Oct. 3 at 6 p.m. Attorney Ebuni McFall-Roberts, who serves as chairman of the Ethics Board, said the additional time would allow the City Council to approve an investigator for the claims in Gilbert’s six-page document and to secure a stenographer to make transcripts available.
Gilbert, visibly upset by the continuance, said the Ethics Board should have handled those issues before Thursday’s meeting.
“The document was submitted and recorded on Aug. 14. That’s fully four weeks ago, almost five weeks ago now,” she said. “If they knew that this was the sort of thing they were going to want to do, they could have been making those arrangements. They could have gone to the council. This is nothing more than a stalling tactic by the mayor.”
Gilbert, who served on the City Council until 2011, said Stuart has violated Article II, Section 2.16 of the Stockbridge charter and Chapter 2.40.040 of the Code of Ordinances, both of which address actions which are prohibited for city officials.
The charter section deals with topics ranging from prohibited financial interests to wrongful use of government property. The ordinance cited in Gilbert’s complaint centers on topics such as using public funds for personal gain and securing special privileges.
Gilbert did not provide specific details of how she believes Stuart committed the violations.
The Code of Ordinances states that any public official who is found to be in violation could be subject to reprimand or censure by the city council; a request by the council for the person’s resignation; proceedings for removal of that person; and transfer of the complaint, recommendation and copies of files to the Henry County District Attorney.
The Ethics Board also includes Linda Gladd, Judy Neal, Mildred Reed and Yvonne Beazer. The city charter calls for the chairman and two board members to be nominated by the mayor and appointed by council, and the two remaining members to nominated and appointed by council.
At a recent council meeting, Gilbert said the mayor has violated his oath of office and state law, and that he is “acting in a manner detrimental to the best interest of the City and its constituents.”
Gilbert’s complaint came after a formal censure of Stuart by the council in August.
Several residents spoke in favor of Stuart during a public-comment portion of Thursday’s would-be hearing. Some said Gilbert’s allegations have a detrimental effect on the city while others said Stuart is working to bring the city together.
Chip Flanegan, a former candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, also leveled criticism against Gilbert and other current and former council members. He said their “foolish” actions have not gone unnoticed by residents in attendance Thursday.
“These people threw her out because of that foolishness,” said Flanegan.
Stuart deferred to his attorney, Joe Cloud, for a response to Gilbert’s claims.
Cloud called those claims “frivolous” and said Stuart does not object to postponing the hearing. The attorney said Stuart looks forward to being vindicated at next month’s hearing.
“We’re glad that the board is going to have an opportunity to do their full investigation,” said Cloud. “We’re glad that we’re going to have a chance to make a full record of the hearing, but we’re also glad that citizens got an opportunity today, even though the hearing was continued, to voice their support of the mayor.”