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Riverdale to go forward with ethics hearing

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Members of the Riverdale City Council voted to move forward with an ethics hearing against Councilman Wayne Hall. On Wednesday, three of the four councilmembers voted in favor of conducting a hearing within the next 60 days, to determine if ethics charges should be filed against Hall for using his city credit card to purchase books used in his pursuit of a master's degree in public administration.

During a special meeting, the council listened to the findings of Bruce Edenfield, who was called in as a special investigator to determine the merits of a formal ethics complaint filed by Councilman Kenny Ruffin on Feb. 22. Ruffin's complaint accused Hall of dampening the public's confidence in the city through a number of accusatory statements made in public meetings; impeding government efficiency through a number of unexplained abstentions; and by purchasing at least a dozen school textbooks using a city credit card.

Edenfield advised the council that there was no basis to pursue ethics charges against Hall on his comments during public meetings or his abstentions. However, he said it was "undisputed" that Hall used his city credit card to purchase $923.80 worth of text books for study at Troy University, and that the action was "a violation of the ethics policy."

"There were 12 different purchases ... eight were required text purchases when he [Hall] enrolled in that course," Edenfield said. "These were personal purchases, and the fact there is some indirect benefit [to Riverdale citizens] is of no consequence. These bills are owed and have to be paid."

Edenfield suggested the matter could be resolved without formal ethics charges, if Hall were to pay back the money to the city. "If this money can be paid back, I think we can move forward," he said.

Councilmembers Cynthia Stamps-Jones, Wanda Wallace, and Ruffin, voted in favor of pursuing an ethics hearing, on the accusations of Hall's book purchases. Edenfield said that prior to a hearing, the city would have the ability to come to an "alternative resolution" with Hall.

Ruffin, who made the ethics complaint, said he is pleased with the actions the city took on Wednesday. "I'm satisfied," he said. "We heard the recommendation. We want to take some time to digest the findings. We are going to take everything into account and come up with a just solution."

Hall's attorney, Keith Martin, said Hall would "gladly reimburse" the city for the book purchases and that he is "looking to move forward" from the ethics complaint. However, Martin said the city's delayed response to Hall's purchases brings the city's ethics rules into question.

"If the policies were not vague, why were these charges approved by the city administration, and no questions were raised?" Martin asked. "It is of import that the city knew what these charges were 10 months ago, and that the city approved these purchases, and there was nothing said."