With position comes responsibility.
Any hint of impropriety by those elected to office should be taken seriously.
Any alleged breach of ethics should be investigated thoroughly.
A couple of months ago we wrote, “House divided cannot stand: Stockbridge becoming embarrassment,” (Henry Daily Herald, July 13).
Since that time things in Stockbridge city government have gone from bad to worse.
The mayor is the city’s highest elected official and it stands to reason he should be held to the highest standards.
Mayor Lee Stuart is once again under fire.
In fact, it seems, in one way or another there has always been controversy surrounding him and when the smoke clears on one situation another seems to emerge.
The adage, “Where there is smoke there must be fire,” seems to apply.
It is most likely time for duly-impaneled citizens to extinguish the flames.
The Citizens Ethics Board met Thursday to hear allegations from former Stockbridge Councilwoman Kathy Gilbert.
Whether it was a lack of planning, technical glitches or just a blatant stall, the panel delayed the hearing that has now been reset for Oct. 3. We urge the panel to move forward and not permit any more delays. It is time to begin removing this thick smoke cloud that hovers over Stockbridge city government.
This complaint of ethical breaches by the mayor was filed six weeks ago.
Beyond that, the mayor has been at the epicenter of one embattled situation after another, whether with the city council, individual council members, city staff or citizens.
It is time for action.
It is past time.
Stuart has either violated city ordinances, ethical canons and the law or not.
This ethics panel owes it to the citizens of Stockbridge to hear all the charges, hear the defense and issue a ruling, posthaste.
The mayor’s attorney suggests the complaints are all frivolous.
He will most likely, and appropriately, defend the mayor vigorously.
It should be remembered, however, this is not a court of law.
Gilbert’s complaints include citations of city ordinances that are broad enough to include the use of public funds for personal gain and securing special privileges through the office he holds.
These are serious breaches that are not unlike allegations against other visible and controversial officials in other counties, some of whom are now under criminal indictment.
It is not the responsibility of this panel of citizens to prosecute a criminal case.
They are, however, tasked with the responsibility of determining if the public trust has been violated, if municipal ordinances have been broken and ethical standards have been breached.
Stuart may have his supporters.
Even those supporters have to admit, however, this cloud of controversy that has surrounded his administration is not good for the City of Stockbridge.
If the mayor has broken the law, then there is a separate process for prosecution.
An ethics hearing is not a court of law where the accused is legally innocent until proven guilty.
If, in fact, the allegations rise to the level of criminal activity, then the rules of evidence, discovery and proof will apply.
The purpose of an ethics panel is not to defend the rights of the accused or bolster the cause of the accuser.
The ethics panel exists to serve the citizens of the City of Stockbridge and provide protections for ethical representation by those holding office.
We encourage the ethics panel to be circumspect in their duties, be decisive and stand up for the interests of the citizens of Stockbridge.
— Editor Jim Zachary