By Joel Hall
At a meeting of the Riverdale City Council on Monday, Ward 4 Councilmember Kenny Ruffin withdrew an ethics complaint filed against Ward 1 Councilman Rick Scoggins, before the matter ever came to a vote.
At the same meeting, the council voted 3-0 ( with Ward 2 Councilmember Wayne Hall abstaining) to dismiss a complaint filed by former Ward 2 Councilmember Michelle Bruce, alleging Hall lied about having a prior criminal record on his notice of candidacy form.
"It went to a vote and the city decided to dismiss it due to a lack of jurisdiction," said Riverdale City Attorney Deana Johnson in regards to Bruce's complaint. "The city code of ethics only has jurisdiction over elected officials. Until you are actually elected by the electorate, you are just a candidate."
Clayton County Superior Court records show that, in 1997, Hall pleaded guilty to one count of simple battery. In the complaint, Bruce also provided documentation showing that Hall had not paid his school and property taxes prior to filing for candidacy in the Nov. 6 election.
Johnson said the city could not pass judgment on Hall because the incidents occurred before Johnson was sworn in as an elected official.
Bruce did not attend Monday's meeting due to a prior engagement, but said the move is a "cop-out" on the part of the city.
"Every candidate that seeks public office has to fill out a notice of candidacy form," said Bruce. "When you are filling that out, you are claiming that all your taxes are paid and that you don't have a prior criminal history.
"Those forms are submitted to the city clerk," said Bruce. "The rules are set for everybody to follow," however, "the council doesn't want to get involved in it."
Hall said he is pleased with the city's decision to drop the case, believing the council ultimately did what they thought was right.
"A lot of people do things that I can't justify," said Hall. "I have no hard feelings ... nobody on that council filed charges against me. That kind of energy will always distract people from being effective in what they are trying to do.
"We're going to do what's good for Riverdale," Hall continued. "I'm going to do what I've been elected to do and that is serving the citizens of Riverdale."
Earlier this month, Ruffin made several accusations against Scoggins, including charges of using his public office for private gain, and verbally abusing a uniformed female Riverdale police officer during the Nov. 6 election.
On Wednesday, Ruffin said it was better for the city to move forward rather than pursue the complaint.
"The negativity that would have come out of it would have overshadowed the good things we have going on," said Ruffin. He cited $250,000 in federal money earmarked for the development of the Riverdale Town Center, and a $850,000 grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation for improvements on Highway 85.
"Our efforts should be towards the future," said Ruffin. "People will be better served by focusing on the positive."
Scoggins could be reached for comment.