The long public spectacle over the City of Morrow's problem-plagued "Olde Towne Morrow" development, took a new twist on Friday when a Clayton County Special Grand Jury indicted former Morrow City Councilman John Lampl for his alleged involvement in the development's woes.
Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson said Lampl was indicted on 16 charges, including four counts of conspiracy in restraint of free and open competition; 11 counts of giving false statements; and one count of perjury.
All of the counts are felonies, she said.
At the center of the allegations is the beleaguered "Olde Towne Morrow" complex, which was intended to be a special shopping district next to Southlake Mall, in Morrow.
It has a long list of problems, ranging from such lesser issues as a lack of parking, to more serious concerns, such as structures built that do not meet ßßfire-safety codes and without feasibility and environmental studies. And, in addition to its failure to come anywhere close to earning back the millions of dollars sunk into it, it has been revealed that many of the businesses that did locate there, were able to operate without leases and without regularly paying any rent.
The city shut down the development last December.
"It's all tied to Olde Towne Morrow," said District Attorney Lawson, who pointed out that the charges Lampl is facing are "extremely serious." She later added: "What they [the charges against Lampl] say is that public servants are responsible for public funds, and they need to obey the law on how those funds are spent, so the money won't be misused and misappropriated."
Lawson said Clayton County Superior Court Judge Matthew Simmons set Lampl's bond at $80,000. She added that Clayton County Sheriff's deputies were on their way to the Georgia coast on Friday evening, to arrest the former city councilman.
"We believe he is on Little Saint Simon's Island, and deputies should be on a boat right now, on their way to the island, to take him into custody," said Lawson, just after 6 p.m., on Friday.
Lawson said Lampl allegedly violated the state's bidding laws on four contracts for moving old houses, removing trees, and construction at the "Olde Towne" site. She also said he signed six contracts for moving the old houses, and issued five certificates of occupancy to facilities that were in violation of the state's fire code, when he did not have the authority to do so.
The district attorney said he committed perjury when he told the grand jury there was no debt left on the project, even though city officials have repeatedly said they were left deep in debt because of the project.
Lampl, 45, served as city manager in Morrow for several years, before he became executive director and vice chairman of the Morrow Downtown Development Authority, where he served until 2009.
He was elected to the Morrow City Council in March of 2010, but the council removed him from office earlier this year, after a three-member panel found he had created an intimidating workplace for Morrow Finance Director Dan Defnall.
Current Morrow City Manager Jeff Eady said Friday: "It's a black cloud over the city, but we've got to move forward."s