Photo by Heather Middleton
By Curt Yeomans
A three-member hearing panel, which heard testimony against Morrow City Councilman John Lampl last week, is recommending that the full city council remove him office, a copy of their findings report shows.
The hearing to decide whether Lampl should be removed from office was held last week, in response to a complaint filed by the city's finance director, Dan Defnall, who alleged that the city councilman had created a "hostile work environment."
After two days of testimony, including allegations that Lampl made disparaging remarks about Defnall to other city employees, the panel began deliberating. The Morrow City Council received its findings in an executive session on Thursday afternoon, and then released them to the public after the session ended.
The report shows that the panel believed Lampl had violated two sections of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, including a violation of the state's Whistleblower Act, and by exhibiting "oppression or tyrannical partiality in the administration ... of ... office" in his treatment of Defnall.
"The panel finds that the testimony and evidence provided at hearing establishes that Mr. Lampl's actions, while as a duly elected and installed council member of the City of Morrow, constitute malfeasance, oppression or tyrannical partiality in the administration of his office, and further that his actions meet the elements of a violation of the Georgia Whistleblowers Act," the report states. "Pursuant to Section 5.16 of the Charter of the City of Morrow, such findings mandate removal from office."
Mayor Jim Millirons said the city council discussed the findings during its executive session, on Thursday, but will not make a decision about removing Lampl until the council's May 10 meeting. "We'll be in a position to vote on the matter, and, hopefully, put it to rest next week," Millirons said.
Lampl did not attend the called meeting, where the council held its executive session, and he did not appear at the hearing last week. But, last week, he criticized city leaders, claiming they had hampered his efforts to defend himself by setting a high price on an open records request he filed, and by not providing him with a lawyer to defend him at the hearing.
During the hearing, witnesses, including Defnall, testified that Lampl allegedly made disparaging remarks about the finance director, and claimed he could make him "cry."
After reading the findings report on Thursday, Defnall said he felt "it supports the facts and contents that I made in my case." He added that he is "looking forward to some final resolution to that, so the city can move forward in a positive direction."
Morrow resident, Jeff DeTar, said he was pleased with the recommendation to remove Lampl from office. DeTar is one of the leaders of a citizens group that has formed in response to revelations about missteps taken in the creation of the city's Olde Towne Morrow development, which Lampl oversaw.
"I do want to hear the council's take on it, and I'm really interested in seeing if Mr. Lampl shows up [at the May 10 city council meeting]," DeTar said. "We support it [Lampl's removal]."