Photo by Kathy Jefcoats
Former Morrow city councilman John Lampl listens as his attorney, Brian Steel, addresses the court Thursday afternoon.
A Clayton County Superior Court judge, Thursday afternoon, banned a former Morrow official from "taking a step" onto city property, even accompanied by his attorney.
Judge Albert Collier ruled that former Morrow city councilman and city manager, John Lampl, II, made "inappropriate contact" with potential witnesses in the state's case against him.
"I don't find sufficient evidence to revoke his bond," said Collier. "But I will modify his bond conditions, and order Mr. Lampl not to take one step onto property owned by the City of Morrow. He is not to go on to city property, except for being able to use the streets of Morrow to go to places."
Collier also made other changes to Lampl's bond restrictions.
"A special condition of his bond is that he is not to have any other contact, whatsoever, with any official of the City of Morrow, or employee of the City of Morrow," said Collier.
Lampl was in court, Thursday, to fight a bond-revocation motion filed by Clayton District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson. Lampl was indicted in June on charges that he lied about Olde Towne Morrow, a now-closed commercial development near Southlake Mall. Prosecutors also alleged that he conspired with others to avoid the contract-bid process. He is out of jail on an $80,000 bond.
Lampl sent city officials notices in November and December accusing them of taking illegal actions against him, specifically in May when the city council voted to remove him from office. Lampl said the intent of the letters was to put the city on notice that he intended to sue for civil damages, because of those alleged actions.
Lawson alleged in December that contact with the officials, who are also potential witnesses in the criminal case, constituted intimidation and threats by Lampl. She said after Thursday’s hearing that she is satisfied with Collier's ruling.
"I'm extremely satisfied," she said. "The judge granted my motion in regards to the facts. Hopefully, this will prevent further intimidation of witnesses."
Lampl's defense attorney, Brian Steel, argued that Lampl had the right to put the city on notice of a possible civil lawsuit. "He's been through hard times," said Steel. "He never contacted anyone at any time to influence or bribe them."
Former Morrow mayor Jim Millirons testified that he felt threatened by the letter.
"I felt it was threatening," he said. "I thought that it was retaliatory toward us."
But Morrow City Manager Jeff Eady said he was not bothered by the letter. "It's part of the job," said Eady. "I forwarded it to the city attorney."
Both men testified that any civil lawsuit against the city could bring financial hardship to taxpayers. "Any time we have to engage the city attorney, it costs money," said Eady.
Millirons said such a suit would "financially ruin" the City of Morrow. "We'd be wrecked," he said.