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Council appoints new ethics board

FOREST PARK — Council members appointed a new ethics board during Monday night’s regular meeting, on the heels of complaints filed against city leaders.

All seats on the ethics board expired last year. Members from the odd-numbered wards will serve two years and representatives from wards 2 and 4 with serve three years.

Latresa Akins appointed Regina Ford; Mayor Pro Tem Linda Lord appointed Skip Cain; Tommy Smith appointed Patty Cooper and Maudie McCord appointed Annie Malone.

Ward 2 has no representation because that council seat has been vacant since July 2011. It is up for election this year, however, and is expected to be filled by Jan. 1.

Smith’s stepfather, Joe Wimberly, had been a member in Lord’s ward.

“Joe Wimberly had served faithfully but Tommy Smith is his stepson and to get him off the hot seat, I’d like to appoint Skip Cain,” Lord said. “I think this might keep peace in the family.”

The last time the ethics board met was in the spring of 2011 to discuss 25 alleged violations filed against then-Councilwoman Karen-Brandee Williams. Three residents accused Williams of theft and of giving orders to city employees. An independent hearing officer confirmed 15 of the allegations and Williams was removed from her seat. The findings also led to Williams being prosecuted for theft under the First Offender Act in Clayton County Superior Court.

Former Public Works Director Mike Gippert, who has announced his candidacy for mayor, filed an ethics complaint last month against Mayor David Lockhart.

The complaint alleges Lockhart violated two sections of the city charter and one section of the city’s code of ethics provisions. The allegations involve giving directives and orders to personnel, which violates sections 2.15 and 2.44 of the charter, according to Gippert’s complaint.

The first allegation directly involves Gippert. He alleges that Lockhart ordered then-City Manager John Parker to terminate Gippert. Parker retired June 28 after his third stint as city manager in 19 years.

“(Lockhart) told Mr. Parker that he did not want me to draw another paycheck from the city,” stated the complaint. “There existed no emergency situation at the time said order was given by the mayor. The ordering of John Parker to terminate me is a violation of Section 2.44 of the city charter which prohibits any member of the council from giving orders to a city employee, except in emergency situations.”

In the ethics complaint, Gippert alleges in May Lockhart ordered executive assistant Jan Young to have Human Resources Director Christine Terrell to advertise for Gippert’s position after he announced his retirement. Gippert alleges the act to be tantamount to usurping the authority of the city manager.

“There existed no emergency situation at that time,” said Gippert.

In June, Gippert alleges, Lockhart ordered Management Analyst Angela Redding to have the promotion of Regina Ivey to deputy finance director rescinded by Terrell and for Terrell to readvertise the position. Gippert said Ivey was promoted by City Clerk and Finance Director Mike Blandenburg, a move approved by Parker.

Lockhart denied all the allegations, saying he specifically told employees that he would not issue orders, so there would be no misunderstandings.

Last week, Gippert filed a second ethics complaint targeting Lockhart, McCord, Akins and Smith. Gippert alleges that the four violated city ordinances during a called meeting July 26 by creating the position of assistant city manager by adoption of a resolution.

Gippert said the four also violated other portions of the ordinance Aug. 5 by hiring an elections superintendent to replace Darnell Moorer. Council voted last month to fire Moorer based on Akins’s 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.

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.”

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