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More complaints filed in Forest Park Recall petition being circulated

Recall petition being circulated

FOREST PARK — Council members in Forest Park are expected to replace the entire Board of Ethics on Monday in the aftermath of a second complaint filed against city leaders.

A recall petition targeting Mayor David Lockhart and council members Maudie McCord, Latresa Akins and Tommy Smith is also being circulated in the city. The petition alleges the four forced former City Manager John Parker to resign and replaced him with an individual they are calling a friend of Lockhart’s who has no experience in city government at an annual salary of $121,000.

“Mr. Parker brought the City out of the ‘red’ and into the ‘black,’ and put the City in the position of being the only city in Clayton County, and one of the few in the entire southeastern United States, to be debt-free,” the petition states.

The recall effort also points to a recent $35,000 settlement with a former Councilwoman Karen-Brandee Williams. Williams sued the city in U.S. District Court alleging leaders discriminated against her under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Williams, who said she suffers from fibromyalgia, battled with the city over the purchase of a special chair for her to use during council meetings. Instead, workers built a ramp onto the dais so Williams could sit in her own chair.

Residents Roy and Diane Lunsford and Carl Evans filed 25 ethics complaints against her which resulted in Williams’s ouster from office in July 2011 and her prosecution on charges in Clayton County Superior Court.

Council members also crafted an ordinance keeping Williams from running for office for five years. However, with the settlement and her first-offender prosecution behind her, Williams implored the mayor and council on Aug. 5 to reinstate her in Ward 2. That seat, which has been vacant for more than two years, is up for election in November.

The recall petition alleges that the settlement was actually a pay-off for Williams’ support of Lockhart’s election campaign and that it was not voted on by council members.

According to the agenda for Forest Park City Council, all terms of the five members of the ethics boards expired more than a year ago. Under the city’s ordinance, a member is appointed to the ethics board to represent each of the five wards.

At Monday’s meeting, the city council is expected to appoint five new members to serve staggered terms. Members from the odd-numbered wards will serve two years and representatives from wards 2 and 4 will serve three years.

The decision to replace the board more than a year after all five terms expired comes days after a second ethics complaint was filed against city leaders.

Announced mayoral candidate and former Public Works Director Mike Gippert alleges that Lockhart, McCord, Akins and Smith violated city ordinances during a called meeting July 26 by creating the position of assistant city manager by adoption of a resolution.

Gippert also alleged the four violated other portions of the ordinance on Aug. 5 by hiring an elections superintendent to replace Darnell Moorer. Council voted last month to fire Moorer based on Akins’ assertion that he is “too political” and was publicly critical of Lockhart.

McCord told council members she was approached last month by a woman who expressed an interest in becoming elections superintendent. She said she knew nothing of the woman’s background outside of her emailed resume.

Gippert said the action constitutes an ethics violation.

“The elected officials, except Councilwoman Linda Lord, violated the City’s Ethics Ordinance by voting and approving a motion to hire a woman, whom none of them supposedly knew, and who was and is not qualified, to be the Elections Superintendent for the city, without following the city’s general practice of advertising and making the position available to qualified candidates in the public at large,” according to Gippert’s complaint filed Aug. 9.

McCord said the woman, Charity Woods, is enrolled in a September class that will give her the education she needs to serve in the position. She said Woods is a good candidate because she has “no political ties to anyone in the city that I know of.”

The Clayton News Daily reached out to Woods several times for comment on the appointment and questions about her background. However, she has not responded.

Gippert filed an ethics complaint against Lockhart last month. A hearing on that filing was delayed when the city learned about the expired terms of the Board of Ethics members.

Monday’s work session starts at 6 p.m. followed by the regular meeting at 7 p.m. Both meetings are open to the public and include portions where residents can address council members.