By Joel Hall
Last Thursday, Jonesboro City Councilman Roger Grider and former councilman, Luther Maddox, filed separate ethics complaints against Mayor Joy Day.
Among the complaints is an allegation the mayor uses the city's newsletter as a campaign tool.
According to Maddox, on Thursday, Sept. 20, he and Grider drove together to downtown Atlanta and presented their complaints to the State Ethics Commission.
Day, who had seen Grider's ethics complaint, but not that of Maddox, said the complaints were "small town politics as usual" and a sign of desperation.
"They are just grasping at straws and trying to use something against me that is invalid," she said. "[Maddox] can drive downtown and do this, but he has never been to an ARC meeting. You tell me what's wrong with that picture."
Maddox is challenging Day for the mayor's post and Grider has been a major critic of Day's.
In a letter to Maddox, Rick Thompson, executive secretary of the Georgia State Ethics Commission, told Maddox his complaint had been received, and the commission will review it to determine whether there is a "basis to proceed."
Maddox accuses the mayor of "using ... city resources to campaign." The former councilman, now mayoral candidate, pointed to the September 2007 issue of "The Community News," the city of Jonesboro's monthly newsletter, to support his claim. In a section entitled, "Breaking News," the newsletter states: "Through the efforts of Mayor Joy Day, the City of Jonesboro has received an additional $1 million from the Atlanta Regional Commission for the streetscape, making the total grant $2,013,600 to be used for Phase I!"
Another issue that concerns Maddox, but was not mentioned in the ethics complaint, is a newsletter article entitled, "Council Delays Downtown Streetscape Decision for 60 Days." Maddox said it contained financial numbers related to the Streetscape Project that were "just guesstimations." He denied that the council delayed the project. He also expressed discontent with the use of a picture of Day getting an award for completing a class on emergency and incident management. He also did not like the newsletter publishing Day's cell phone number.
"I just felt that it was being used for political purposes," said Maddox. He said the newsletter should not have been sent out until after the Nov. 6 election.
Janice Truhan, Jonesboro city clerk, said Maddox and Grider came to city hall separately and made complaints about the contents of the newsletter.
In response, "we went through the newsletter and blacked out all of the mentions of Joy Day's name," in relation to the additional $1 million the city received from the Atlanta Regional Commission for the Streetscape project. "I thought that had resolved the issue, but apparently it had not."
Last Friday, approximately 1,000 newsletters were sent to Jonesboro households and businesses. The ethics complaints were filed a day earlier.
"I mean, this is stupid," Truhan continued. "Would they rather people not get a newsletter? If [Maddox] is so concerned about the newsletter, why doesn't he try writing one? Because we don't have a downtown development director, or a city manager, all of that falls on me."
Day said the cell phone number published in the newsletter was furnished by the city for city business.
"Why would I not be available to the city?" she asked, rhetorically. "I am the mayor and I should be. The mayor's job and the councilman's job is not a full-time job. We should be accessible," she said.
Documents pertaining to Grider's ethics complaint could not be obtained for this article, but Day, who had read the complaint, said it was "more general." He expressed ire over the newsletter stating that the council had "delayed Phase 1 [of the] Downtown Streetscape until an investigation launched by the council into the purchase of a car for City Hall can be completed," she said.
"They did vote 4-1 to put if off for 60 days," said Day. "It's in our minutes ... it's a matter of public knowledge. If they are ashamed of the way they voted, they should have voted differently."
"That first statement [in the newsletter] was a lie," countered Maddox. "We didn't delay [streetscape] one bit." He also mentioned that Day's car purchase wasn't the only reason for the investigation, but also investigating the city's spending practices and possible violations of the city charter.
"A candidate shouldn't be using the city's resources to count their own awards," he continued. "It's okay for the mayor to do it, but she became a candidate on Aug. 31, not just a mayor."
Day said she didn't want any voters to think she was taking advantage of her position as mayor.
"I can go door-to-door and campaign," she said.
"It will be a long time after the elections until the State [Ethics] Commission gets around to looking at it," said Maddox. "I felt it was wrong, so I took action against it."
Grider was contacted several times, but was unavailable for comment for this article.