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Morrow mayor facing punishment for criticisms

Council may have violated sunshine law

Morrow Mayor Joseph “J.B.” Burke sits alone at the city council dais while the council weighs the possibility of punishing him on Tuesday. The mayor is in hot water over his criticism of the town’s economic development director.

Morrow Mayor Joseph “J.B.” Burke sits alone at the city council dais while the council weighs the possibility of punishing him on Tuesday. The mayor is in hot water over his criticism of the town’s economic development director.

— The Morrow City Council is poised to punish Mayor Joseph “J.B.” Burke for criticizing the job performance of Planning and Economic Development Director Michael McLaughlin. However, the council itself may have broken the law when it heard complaints against city official in a closed-door meeting.

A grievance has been filed against Burke — possibly by McLaughlin — and the city council dealt with the complaint behind closed doors Tuesday night. Burke criticized McLaughlin Oct. 23 for charging First Baptist Church of Morrow an $80 permit fee to let the church have a “Trunk-or-Treat” event on Halloween. The city refunded the fee when officials couldn’t find proof they had the legal authority to charge it.

What will come from this week’s closed-door meeting remains to be seen. The council wouldn’t say what it’s decided — if it has even decided Burke’s fate. The council could censure Burke or it could go further and kick him out of office.

“The results of the executive meeting are not finalized, but the results will be announced at the Morrow City Council meeting on Nov. 13,” said Councilman Bob Huie.

In the last couple of weeks, the situation in Morrow’s government may have reached a figurative “critical mass” point, with Burke openly critiquing McLaughlin over a brewing permit fee issue Oct. 23. The mayor got an icy reception from the City Council after those remarks. A split between the mayor and council was already rumored to exist.

The grievance is shrouded in mystery because city officials refuse to say what accusations have been made. That puts the city in the precarious position of running up against the state’s open-meetings law, which mandates “a meeting may not be closed when evidence or argument is presented on a personnel matter,” according to David E. Hudson, counsel for the Georgia Press Association.

Hudson’s legal opinion regarding Official Code of Georgia Annotated 50-14-3(b)(2) came following major revisions to the state’s open meeting legislation passed in April.

The code specifically states that the exemption to the open meeting act that permits executive session, or closed door meetings, does not apply to “the receipt of evidence or when hearing argument on personnel matters, including whether to impose disciplinary action or dismiss a public officer or employee or when considering or discussing matters of policy regarding the employment or hiring practices of the agency.”

City Clerk Evyonne Browning said accusations will be made public at the Nov. 13 council meeting.

Officially, city officials won’t confirm a grievance has even been filed against Burke, but several signs point to him being the subject of the complaint.

After the Oct. 23 council meeting, Clayton News Daily filed an open records request for any complaints filed in the last two and a half years against McLaughlin, Burke, the city council, City Manager Jeff Eady, former councilmen John Lampl and Mason Barfield, and former Mayor Jim Millirons, in light of several ongoing controversies involving the city.

Browning told the newspaper the only officials grievances have been filed against in the last two and a half years were Burke and Lampl, who was kicked off the council last year.

The statement in the meeting agenda that the grievance stemmed from critical comments made against a department head Oct. 23 also points toward Burke. The mayor is the only elected official who made alleged disparaging remarks about a department head at the meeting.

Comments

OscarKnight 1 year, 10 months ago

....Riddle Me with This Pop Quiz :

,,,,Does The City of Morrow actually have a Government or a Side Show of Self Serving Comedians ?

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Robert 1 year, 10 months ago

I would say that this helps when it comes time to vote them out of office but Clayton County has fallen under a curse.

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OscarKnight 1 year, 10 months ago

...Robert; Is it a Curse or a Plague ?......In my opinion, it might be both. I will go back to the Booze Link and Drink on it for awhile.

http://www.news-daily.com/news/2012/nov/07/clayton-goes-sunday-booze/?c=77094

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MorrowResident 1 year, 10 months ago

So let me get this into perspective.

The Mayor has concerns he addresses them with the City Manager, who does nothing but send angry, poorly written letters to the press The City Manager talks constantly about being "transparent" but is in cahoots with the "Economic Developer" and only is "transparent" when convenient and what he deems "transparent".

The Economic Developer is pulling down 130 THOUSAND dollars plus another 20 THOUSAND dollars in car allowances, insurances. Has an assistant who pulls down 65 THOUSAND plus another 10 THOUSAND + in perks and is up for a raise to 80 THOUSAND. A TOTAL OF 210 THOUSAND just in salaries for this department and THAT FIGURE IS LOW. This figure does NOT include car allowances, and the other items mentioned above.

The Economic Developer has proven to be condescending and rude to potential business owners as well as present business owners. Claims to be very busy handling permits, yet businesses do not seem to be opening. When one opens, they mysteriously close after a few weeks. This has happened numerous times in the past two years (the length of time the Economic Developer has been with the City of Morrow according to my memory, it may be longer.).

The Economic Development department is to oversee the maintenance on the numerous city owned properties. This paper recently uncovered the lack of maintenance at Old Town Morrow and the Economic Developer was quoted as saying that the damage from vandalism and theft was less than $500.00. What about the two commercial( tax payer owned) air conditioning units that were taken from this location? I know that two commercial air units are significantly more than 500.00. One of the city employees told me that this happened within the past year. News Daily was once again given only the information that Eady and McLaughlin thought they needed.

Try calling City Hall and getting the phone answered. Try calling Eady or McLaughlin and getting through to them. I thought they said at the council meeting that they have a new telephone system?

So the Mayor blows the whistle on this mess and then all of a sudden, we have a complaint filed against the Mayor? So what if the Mayor did it publicly? He has said, publicly, all along that he was going to LISTEN to the people and be OPEN to the people. Neither Eady or McLaughlin live in the city so they are not his constituents, That is right, you read it, I just learned that neither of them live in the city. That explains a lot to me right there, neither of them live here.

My neighbor tells me that she has heard the Mayor on several occasions try and offer suggestions for development and they have always been labeled as "crazy" or " we need to reel that Mayor in".

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MorrowResident 1 year, 10 months ago

I do not know the Mayor personally but I do know that he runs large hotels and convention centers . I would imagine that he would answer to investors and to guests on a daily basis? My wife heard him mention that he performed impact studies for Hilton. The other council members, have any of them ever been responsible for a payroll, impact studies, investors. I will answer that, no.

There are several other major issues that the Mayor needs to uncover and make public. I imagine he has had the staff digging in their heels when he tries to get the truth. My wife volunteers with events and areas in the city and she has heard that there are over 100 THOUSAND dollars in uncollected hotel taxes and the Mayor mentioned this months ago, we still have not heard anything about this in a council meeting?

Yeah so the Mayor is more dramatic and outspoken than we are used to. This is exactly what we need! Someone who will speak the TRUTH and have the elected officials HOLD THE STAFF ACCOUNTABLE, even if they don't like it. If my memory is right, only two of the council were actually elected. The other two were appointed and never really elected by the people of Morrow. They simply ran unopposed. The female is obviously with the City Manager, we see her look at him during council meetings and then at times roll her eyes. Complete disrespect that is blatant. It is like we are in the same boat as we had with Lample.

Note to the Mayor: Keep fighting, we need change and get an attorney. We the people who keep up with what is going on, KNOW that you are doing the right things. I would say tone down the dramatics but (this ridiculous complaint), you might be right on target.

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MorrowResident 1 year, 10 months ago

The code specifically states that the exemption to the open meeting act that permits executive session, or closed door meetings, does not apply to “the receipt of evidence or when hearing argument on personnel matters, including whether to impose disciplinary action or dismiss a public officer or employee or when considering or discussing matters of policy regarding the employment or hiring practices of the agency.”

Again, the staff places the city in jeopardy of huge legal fees. Everyone needs to become involved in our city government. It was this guy (the Mayor) the as a citizen uncovered all of the junk that has cost us millions in fees, debt and attorneys.

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CrazyKid 1 year, 10 months ago

Not shocking I guess to see that City Manager wants to get rid of the Mayor after he found out that both city officials lied about the fees they were charging and that they told not 1 but several businesses that they were not welcomed here and to move on. MAYOR BURKE we as citizens of Morrow APPLAUD YOU in your effort to fix these issues and hold others accountable. Mr Eady I was in the meeting the night were YOU yourself lied in front of us all including the council saying those fees were there and was passed by members couple of yrs ago and yet you knew this not to be true and you got BUSTED!

And why is it that McLaughlin has yet to defend himself to the media? He's the highest paid employee and has never made it to a city event.

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AnotherMorrowResident 1 year, 10 months ago

So, we have a mayor who promised the citizens of Morrow transparency. Transparency is exactly what we got. THANK YOU MAYOR BURKE! You merely expounded the sentiments of former-Mayor Millirons stated earlier that same evening. The Economic Developer's feelings got hurt! Well, so what, he deserved it. Raking in the salary he's pulling in, one would think we would be getting more for our money than hair related businesses and dollar stores. We have actually lost more big name stores in the city than he's brought in since he been here. Another LCI study to bring another dollar store is not worth his salary. Did the mayor break a law? NO. Did we get transparency? YES.

As for the other 4 buffoons sitting on the dais; Are we getting transparency from them? Did they break the law? Looking at the letter they all signed, I think NOT!!!!

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