Ethics board rules against commissioner Brown

Board votes against any penalty for 2 violations brought by former commissioner Horgan

On a split vote this evening, Fayette County’s ethics board determined that County Commission Chairman Steve Brown violated the county’s ethics ordinance on two separate occasions.

The board voted unanimously, however, not to penalize Brown for either of the infractions.

The board majority determined that Brown violated a county policy forbidding commissioners from issuing orders to county employees. The complaint filed against Brown referenced an email Brown sent to the human resources director in which Brown asked the director to inquire with the Georgia attorney general about a question dealing with the hiring of a new county administrator.

Brown contended the matter was simply a request, and not an order, but it was noted that the HR director acted on that request as if it had been an order by bringing it to the attention of the interim county administrator. Brown also said he was acting on behalf of the hiring committee established to select a new county administrator, and that if he had felt it was an order, he would have demanded that the HR director comply with the request, which Brown says he did not do.

Brown said the interim county administrator ordered the HR director to forward the inquiry to then-county attorney Scott Bennett.

The other ethics violation dealt with a letter Brown wrote to the Georgia attorney general inquiring about whether the county could legally sue itself, which former commissioner Robert Horgan insisted was a violation of the county’s attorney client privilege and also improperly disclosed matters discussed in executive (closed) session.

Brown contended that for numerous reasons he did not trust advice on the proposed lawsuit given by county attorney Bennett, therefore he felt obligated to seek further counsel — particularly to protect himself from liability. While all three ethics board members agreed Brown should have the ability to seek such legal counsel, they said the ethics ordinance needed to be rewritten to allow such.

The 2-1 votes that Brown violated the ethics ordinance on both counts were favored by ethics board members Scott Rowland and Sheila Huddleston with ethics board member Larris Marks voting against.

Horgan filed both ethics complaints against Brown in November before Horgan left office.

It also was revealed tonight that Horgan filed a new ethics complaint against Brown Jan. 22 on the basis that Brown ordered the county marshal’s office to conduct an investigation into former county attorney Bennett wiping the hard drives of his county owned office computer and laptop computer.

Brown said during the hearing that he thinks Bennett violated Georgia’s open records law by wiping the data from the hard drive.

conditon55
conditon55's picture
Offline
Joined: 03/12/2010
The Cats Pajamas

Comm Brown has made a career bad mouthing officals far and wide. His favorite cry is pointing out the ethical lapses of his targets.

Pompous and arrogant, he does not thinkthat these rules should apply to him.

I ask, why not ? SHould those who beat the drum of ethical purity be willing to walk that walk ad talk that talk ?

And if this comment has any kernel of fact, then should that same person, when lapses occur be held to the highest standards?

And shouldn't that same person be held accountable for said lapses, he as he seeks to hold every official far and wide accountable for what they think do and say ?

So enough of the pious preaching to the electorate. We do not need to be preached to. We had responsible competent representation, not the nearly universal soap opera crap that passes for governemtn in these parts.

Hunter L Wood
Hunter L Wood's picture
Offline
Joined: 02/01/2008
Steve Brown

The best defense is a good offence and the Fayette commissioners have been practicing that for some years now. Steve Brown will shake out the cobweb. Brown was 100% in the right for asking that the wiping out of infor on a county computer be looked into. Horgan filed ethics charges because it is another attempt to cover up. make Brown shut up, draw attention away from their usual , we will do as we please agenda. No one else trusts the local attorney and the officials, so why should Brown be any different?

pips1414
pips1414's picture
Offline
Joined: 03/18/2009
Your Political Adversaries may come back to haunt you

Two of the three tribunal votes were against Mr. Brown. Those votes were cast by Chairperson Sheila Huddleston and voting member, Scott Rowland, both appointed by former commissioners Horgan, Hearn, and Frady. Since the first of the year, Horgan and Hearn have been attempting to fulfill former Commission Chairman, Herb Frady's prophesy of keeping the new commissioners under a microscope.

Ms. Huddleston and Mr. Hearn joined forces in the last commissioners election. While they attached their signs together, jointly, they only got a majority vote in one county precinct where Ms. Huddleston won that precinct. Mr. Hearn has proffered what I consider to be petty and disparaging remarks against Mr. Brown in a "Public Comment" session at a January commissioners meeting.Once he delivered his comments, he abruptly exited the meeting. The remarks he made have since been widely criticized as petty and retaliatory in many Citizen comments.

What we have here is a situation where Mr. Hearn and Ms. Huddleston linked campaign signs in the general election. Mr. Rowland Ms. Huddleston, and Mr. Dan Langford were appointed by Commissioners Frady, Horgan and Hearn to pass judgment upon Mr. Brown, who opposed the candidacy of Ms. Huddleston, Mr. Hearn, and Mr. Horgan. Mr. Horgan, who had faced major ethics charges himself, then filed ethic complaints so petty, that one of the appointed officials resigned from the Ethics committee upon his reluctance to pass judgment on another county official. He said that had he remained a Board member and voted, he would have recommended dismissing both charges. Ms. Huddleston and Mr. Rowland both voted against Mr. Brown, with the alternate member, Ms. Larris Marks voting in Mr. Brown's favor.

Here we have another instance where the three amigos, who never voted against one another while serving with Messrs. Brown and McCarty, got it done their way. If the way the Ethics Hearing was conducted doesn't create the appearance of a conflict of interest, what does?

At a minimum, Ms. Huddleston should have recused herself because of demonstrated political opposition to the current Administration and her previously demonstrated alliance with ousted candidate Hearn.

This Ethics hearing against Brown was criticized as poorly conducted by several individuals who spoke during Public Comments at the January 24 Commissioners meeting.

Sorta reminds me of a District Attorney appointing jury members.

Husband and Fat...
Husband and Father of 2's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/23/2012
Pips

The people appointed to the ethics board were just that, appointed because they want to serve or were asked to serve. Whether they were political alias or just worthy citizens, it doesn't matter. The method of appointment can be changed or the present commissioners can appoint thier people if and when the time comes. If I am not mistaken, during elections, one of the perceived faults of Ms. Huddleston was that she did not have a long record of public service. Well there she was becoming involved. If you don't like the outcome, you can certainly disagree, but she felt she went by the book. Can you really say that this is "revenge". Come on, any sensible person knew that the worst he was going to get was a slap on the wrist.

Most people have a love/hate relationship with Mr. Brown. Can you explain why this is?

ginga1414
ginga1414's picture
Offline
Joined: 09/01/2008
Ethics

I tend to agree that our Ethics Board should not be appointed by the BOC.

Steve Brown represented himself extremely well during the hearing last night. Fayette citizens would be very surprised to hear all of the whys and wherefores that he cited to justify his actions.

During the hearing, Robert Horgan said that Steve Brown "ordered" the HR director "to inquire with the Georgia attorney general about a question dealing with the hiring of a new county administrator." It was stated last night that Mr. Brown's email asked the HR director "would you mind" contacting the Georgia attorney general. To my way of thinking, "would you mind" isn't a suggestion, request, demand, or order. "Would you mind" is a question that gives the person on the other end the choice... an option. The HR director could have said, "I would rather not."

That whole scenario was cooked up from the time Lee Hearn presented Commissioner Elect Randy Ognio with a list of applicants to fill the county administrator position. It was all set into play when Herb Frady told Mr. Ognio and the other commissioners elect to go forward and hire the new county administrator. It was also during that same commission meeting that Mr. Frady told the commissioners elect that they would be under the "big microscope."

Those are the kinds of political games (double talk) we have been fighting for many years. I have been sitting in commission meetings for more than four years watching as Scott Bennett and Jack Krakeel manipulated issues to suit Frady, Horgan, and Hearn. It was extremely obvious. During one of those meetings Chairman Frady asked Attorney Bennett to cite just cause why a new legislative bill couldn't be used to divert funds from the West Bypass to more pressing problems like replacing culverts under collapsing roads. Bennett hemmed and hawed looking for the information. Krakeel came to the rescue by looking hither and yon for the information. Finally Krakeel came up with an answer that suited Frady, Horgan, and Hearn, and the funds stayed with the WFB.

As for Mr. Horgan's other complaint against Mr. Brown last night, who among us would sit by and watch as an injustice (crime?) was being committed and not report it to a higher authority? If we didn't, could we be charged with aiding and abetting, withholding evidence, or being an accomplice?

NUK_1
NUK_1's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/17/2007
ginga: Stop the hysterics, please
ginga1414 wrote:

Steve Brown represented himself extremely well during the hearing last night. Fayette citizens would be very surprised to hear all of the whys and wherefores that he cited to justify his actions.

I'll take your word on that. Last meeting, he conducted himself like an immature brat and someone who needed to be told to SHUT UP and stop interrupting.

Quote:

During the hearing, Robert Horgan said that Steve Brown "ordered" the HR director "to inquire with the Georgia attorney general about a question dealing with the hiring of a new county administrator." It was stated last night that Mr. Brown's email asked the HR director "would you mind" contacting the Georgia attorney general. To my way of thinking, "would you mind" isn't a suggestion, request, demand, or order. "Would you mind" is a question that gives the person on the other end the choice... an option. The HR director could have said, "I would rather not."

Have u seen this email that you are talking about or are you simply taking Brown's word as gospel as you do 100% of the time without any hesitation?

I've seen the email and if I was in the position as HR Dir and got this from Brown, yeah, it would be a real problem. The HR Dir does not work for the county commissioners and they are NOT supposed to be making "requests" to county staff. That's why you have a county manager, whether a particular elected official like Brown likes it or not.

Quote:

As for Mr. Horgan's other complaint against Mr. Brown last night, who among us would sit by and watch as an injustice (crime?) was being committed and not report it to a higher authority? If we didn't, could we be charged with aiding and abetting, withholding evidence, or being an accomplice?

Brown is likely right in this regard, but again, that had NOTHING to do with the other ethics charges that frankly I thought he was guilty of one rather obviously, and the other two, maybe not so much. If he could have SHUT HIS MOUTH for a few minutes when his arch-nemesis boogeyman Langford was trying to get all of the charges tossed, he probably would have seen a better outcome than being found rightfully guilty and also rightfully not punished besides "don't do it again, moron."

Time to just shut up and govern. Deal with the facts, not emotions. When you have someone whose never done crap in their life besides sit around the house firing off letters or being an elected politician, this is what you get. Complete immaturity and the adoration of some who worship letters to the editors and yapping.

Husband and Fat...
Husband and Father of 2's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/23/2012
ginga

I don't think the scenario was cooked up. Mr. Hearn presented the applicants. It was assumed that the new commissioners elect and returning commissioners would still follow protocal, which reguired notification of the public when they reviewed the applicants. They failed to follow the rules, intentional or not, they still erred. Mr. Fradys comment, in my belief, was a warning that people are watching. Just like you watched him like a hawk.

Horgans complaint about the computers is hogwash. What Bennett and Krakeel did was wrong and they probably are hiding something. What I would like to see is county communication that may have taken place utilizing thier personal email accounts. Now that would be interesting.

Starrs Mill Dad
Starrs Mill Dad's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/06/2006
The BOC should not appoint the ethics board

The group that serves on the ethics board will possibly one day be judge and jury to those that appointed them. The vote last night went right along the lines of who appointed each member or that person had a big influence on their being on the ethics board.

It is my opinion that a citizens group should be appointed by our Superior Court Judges. People interested should send in a resume, and if necessary have a personal interview. This removes politics from the process.

Until the selection process is changed, the end result will always be subject to question.

The Truth Will ...
The Truth Will Prevail's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/13/2008
Citizens group should be appointed for Ethics Committee

I agree last nights vote was exactly along the lines of who supported who during recent political campaigns. I also agree 100%, a Citizens Group should be appointed for the County Ethics Committee. But there again, Judges and Attorneys are politicians and involving them in this process in not productive. Make a public announcement for those interested in forming an ethics committee to apply. Treat it as you would for a jury when selecting the foreman of a jury. Let the citizens decide by a vote (raise of hands or paper ballot) who is in and who is out. Citizens need to be involved locally in every aspect of community business. This is how we maintain oversight in local operations and take our country back; begin locally! We must stop giving our control and rights away!

Voter
Voter's picture
Offline
Joined: 05/19/2010
ETHICS BOARD

This current Ethics Board should be disolved and replaced with three attornies that are not connected politically. Forsyth County recently made that change and was well recieved by the voting public. This current Board consists of a member who just ran and lost her bid for Commissioner and was connected with the campaigns of HORGAN and HEARN. This was not a group that did not have a strong dislike for Steve Brown. Could she be fair in judging Mr. Brown concerning a complaint filed by Mr. Horgan??? Mr. Rowland was having trouble with the word "request" and wanted to create his own definition. It reminds me of a past President who questiioned what the definition of is , is. Ethical behavior is important to good government. Petty politics by a losing candidate should not have a place at the table. I think we can improve the Ethics Board and make it more professional with a new format.

The Truth Will ...
The Truth Will Prevail's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/13/2008
Ethics is everybodys business - no more lawyers - please!

You must be kidding! No more attorneys needed in the citizens business! You only give your power away to the injustice of the systems upon us. You have the capability to determine what is lawful or unlawful. The average citizen is more than capable to sit on a county ethics committee, a county grand jury, a review board of any kind! Ethics is everybodys business! Please stop giving your power away!!!

ginga1414
ginga1414's picture
Offline
Joined: 09/01/2008
We All Knew The Ethics Decision

A little over four years ago, a handful of folks realized that the citizens of Fayette County were being scammed by some of our public officials. The more we uncovered, the more determined we became to put an end to what was going on.

Everyone who has been working to clean up our local government knew what last night's decision by the Ethics Board would be.

Steve Brown and Larris Marks were the two most composed and professional people in the commission room last night. Steve Brown was composed because he and many others knew that he had taken the responsible steps to protect the interests of all Fayette citizens. Ms. Marks was composed because she is a professional.

Former Commissioner Robert Horgan sat with a smirk on his face the entire time.

Former County Attorney Scott Bennett lost his cool all over the place when information concerning his actions were presented to the public and Ethics Board.

Not only did we know the outcome of last night's hearing, we expected there would be the usual derogatory comments here.

Spy, what would you have done if you discovered that a former employee had taken the hard drive from his county issued computer and had wiped it clean?

What would you have done if you found out that one former employee gave another former employee permission to take the hard drive and wipe it when he didn't have the authority to give that permission?

Horgan's ethics complaints are just more of the same old stuff that has been going on for many years. All the folks who were put out of office, retired, or lost their jobs are disgruntled former employees of Fayette County and they don't like it one little bit.

Steve Brown walked out of the hearing last night with his head up, as well he should have. He had nothing to be ashamed of.

NUK_1
NUK_1's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/17/2007
ginga: One more thing

Stve Brown made a complete ass out of himself last week when Dan Langsford was trying to get the charges against Brown dismissed by interrupting him 3 times when he's trying to speak. Typical Brown and the typical Brown apologists could care less about anything besides Brown being God instead of questioning perhaps that maybe he steps way across the line?

Oh yeah, what do you think of Brown's diatribe about district voting published here? None of you acolytes will ever comment on that? Afraid to anger a deity or something?

Husband and Fat...
Husband and Father of 2's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/23/2012
Time will tell

I was originally skeptical and thought Mr. Brown may have overstepped his boundaries, but after reading what the Brooks Mayor had to say the other night, swayed my opinion of the situation.

Mr. Brown knows that he stepped on a lot of toes to get his friends elected and yes, it may have affected the vote last night. Mr. Brown is also intelligent enough to realize that any result of the hearing would be nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

I find it quite interesting when you said that Mr. Bennett lost his cool last night when his actions were questioned. Someone who does his job well and has nothing to hide would not lose thier cool in this type of proceeding. Starting to wonder even more, what he is hiding and why he may be fighting to surpress.

Time will tell

NUK_1
NUK_1's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/17/2007
ginga: ethics

Last night's ethics hearing had nothing to do with wiped hard drives but rather the 3 charges already filed that were heard last night and were filed before the hard drive incidents.

The wiped hard drive fiasco is a separate issue that will be heard later.

yada yada yada
yada yada yada's picture
Offline
Joined: 02/02/2006
Brown ethics

Brown has always lied with the greatest of ease. He doesn't know when you shut up. He brought some guy there as a character witness. What a joke. The citizens of PTC know his character. This is just the beginning of Brown's out of order behavior as CHAIRMAN OF THE COUNTY. Give him time and all in the county will know what we in PTC found out about him. He is BAD NEWS.

Spyglass
Spyglass's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/28/2008
You don't say..

SB not being ethical.

Let the show begin.

yada yada yada
yada yada yada's picture
Offline
Joined: 02/02/2006
BROWN'S ETHICS

Brown's defense is that Bennett is a crook.

Robert W. Morgan
Robert W. Morgan's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/26/2005
Something seems backwards about this ethics thing

They Board is saying Brown was guilty of violating the Ethics Ordinance, but he should be allowed to do so, so the solution is to not punish him and rewrite the ordinance to allow him to do what he did, so next time it will be legal. Huh?

See if that's what you get out of this -"While all three ethics board members agreed Brown should have the ability to seek such legal counsel, they said the ethics ordinance needed to be rewritten to allow such."

Next time I get stopped for speeding, i'm going to say that I have studied the traffic on this street for years and determined that everyone speeds and since there have been no accidents, I am comfortable driving at a higher speed.

And why are you investigating Brown who wants to investigate Bennett? Brown may be a lot of things, but Bennett is the one who wiped his data.

yeahwhatever
yeahwhatever's picture
Offline
Joined: 08/09/2008
Ethics and rules

Regardless of Horgan's motivation or anyone's personal like or dislike of any particular commissioner, those ethics rules and sunshine laws are there for a good reason. Be glad that the only result was a slap on the wrist. These charges sometimes end up in court and cost all county taxpayers money. While this episode is somewhat embarassing for Brown, it is good for the commissioners to be reminded of their legal limitations and the manner in which Fayette County government is designed to run. If they don't want a county administrator or manager form of government, they can petition the state for a change so that they can run all day to day operations, which usually results in a mess in a county the size of Fayette. This was a "no harm, no foul" reminder to the BOC that the citizens expect the highest level of performance from the highest level of power....even if it was an ousted commissioner that did the reminding.

The Truth Will ...
The Truth Will Prevail's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/13/2008
Mr Brown FC needs you, please continue to question their actions

What I have learned from the FC Ethics Board?

An elected official, appointed official or county employee is "not allowed" to share/report suspected unlawful behaviors to anyone EXCEPT the commissioners. UUUmmmmm? The misplaced attitudes of Rowland, Huddleston, Horgan and Bennett are quite obvious.

We have placed a 2-foot by 10inch metal question mark (?) emblem above the garage door in our home. You can't miss it as you enter and leave the home. We tell all who travel through, if in doubt, to always "question" everything in your path!!

The next FC Ethics Board meeting will take place in a month - hope to see you there!

What is truth
What is truth's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/22/2012
Character Issues

There appears to be some serious character issues with the current "Ethics Board?"

Ms.Huddleston seems to have the same attitude as previous county commission ignore the citizens! I would like to remind Ms. Huddleston that with the attitude she displayed tonight it will be very difficult to win a commissoin seat in 2014!

As for Mayor Dan Langford he is not only a man of character and integrity but also a very wise man.

The Mole
The Mole's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/13/2010
Another One?

Enough already with the ethics charges!! Let this new board of commissioners govern and stop the pettiness. If they do not govern the way you want, then vote them out.

Husband and Fat...
Husband and Father of 2's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/23/2012
Sour grapes

Horgan needs to stick it in his bong and smoke it.

Is he going to waste more of the commissioners time with these petty charges?

Krakeel and Bennett had no right to clean their computers like they did. I am wondering what both were hiding. Could get real interesting if they could somehow subpoena their personal email accounts that deal with county business.

Horgan doesn't seem to want to go away gracefully.

PTC Observer
PTC Observer's picture
Online
Joined: 04/23/2007
Mr. Horgan - your

Your character is showing.

Don't you need to find a new line of work or do you still own that transmission shop that Fayette taxpayers patronize?