Complaint against Lee dropped by ethics panel
by Hilary Butschek
June 18, 2014 04:00 AM | 3457 views | 8 8 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Attorney Gary Pelphrey addresses the Cobb Board of Ethics on Tuesday night. Pelphrey brought nine ethics charges against Cobb Chairman Tim Lee in connection with the Braves’ move to the county, but the charges were all rejected by the panel. <br> Staff/Jeff Stanton
Attorney Gary Pelphrey addresses the Cobb Board of Ethics on Tuesday night. Pelphrey brought nine ethics charges against Cobb Chairman Tim Lee in connection with the Braves’ move to the county, but the charges were all rejected by the panel.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
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MARIETTA — The Cobb Board of Ethics tossed an ethics complaint against county Chairman Tim Lee on Tuesday.

East Cobb attorney Gary Pelphrey, who filed the complaint, alleged misconduct over how Lee handled the deal between the county and Atlanta Braves to build a $672 million stadium near Cumberland Mall.

The seven-member ethics board ruled that Pelphrey’s claim failed to meet the legal threshold to require a hearing on his allegations.

Lee said the board’s findings were not surprising.

“I am very pleased with the outcome that all the accusations were found to be baseless, and it was my belief that this would occur because I truly believe that the charges were baseless,” Lee said.

This is the second ethics complaint filed against Lee over the Braves’ deal and the second to be thrown out.

Pelphrey accused Lee of violating the Georgia Open Meetings law by denying public participation in the deal. Pelphrey said Lee briefed commissioners in sets of two to avoid holding a public meeting.

Pelphrey was hoping the board would agree to investigate Lee to consider whether he was guilty of violating the ethics code.

“The matter of the Braves coming to Cobb County was kept very closely held, and nothing was leaked to the citizens of Cobb County,” Pelphrey said at the hearing.

Pelphrey accused Lee of nine different violations of the county’s ethics code.

The board denied to further investigate the allegations, saying Pelphrey did not have enough evidence to prove Lee violated the law or the code of ethics in each case, Chairman Lt. Col. Mike Patellis of east Cobb said.

“When you say, ‘This is wrong,’ you have to be able to say, ‘And, this is why,’” Patellis said. “And, we didn’t have any of that here.”

The Rev. Walter Moon of Marietta, another board member, said the violations of ethics that Pelphrey alleged were vague and unclear, leaving the board with no way to pursue the allegations.

“I find no credible evidence to back up the statements that you’ve been making,” Moon said to Pelphrey during the meeting.

Pelphrey said he was disappointed in the board because he didn’t think it addressed ethical issues, just legal ones. He said the board should have looked beyond the legality of what Lee did to see if it was unethical.

“(Lee) did in fact violate the oath he took, which was to represent the people, and that’s the violation I bring forth,” he said.

Pelphrey said after the meeting that the board made up its own rules as it went along.

“It seems to me that they came here with the notion of clearing the decks — and they did,” he said.

Several board members told Pelphrey during the meeting that the group’s decision was constrained by the ethics code that has been passed and approved by the county.

The board spent hours holding discussion around each of the nine complaints Pelphrey made against Lee, but voted against investigating each one after much back and forth.

All members of the ethics board were present at the meeting, which includes Patellis; Moon; Deborah King of south Cobb, an adjunct professor at Shorter University; retired businessman Richard Ziober of east Cobb; Marietta attorney Doug Shaddix of west Cobb; Darrell Sutton, who was appointed to the ethics board by the Cobb Bar Association, and attorney Angeline Mathis.

The board’s attorney at the meeting was Robert Grayson in place of Lynn Rainey. Rainey, who is also the attorney for the Cumberland Community Improvement District, recused himself because the district has committed $10 million to the stadium project and he wanted to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

In April, the board also rejected a complaint against four of the five commissioners brought by Larry Savage, a retired east Cobb businessman in a vote of 6-1, with Moon opposed.

Before the Tuesday night vote, Savage said he didn’t expect anything but rejection from the ethics board in response to this second complaint.

“My experience a few weeks ago — I’ll be polite and say — it was disappointing,” Savage said. “The ethics board is not interested in getting involved in a quagmire with the board commissioners.”

Savage said he thinks the board is caught in a political trap.

“There’s just so much pressure coming down on the folks to make it go, and I think everyone gets the feeling of: we don’t want to be the ones to stand in the way of progress,” Savage said.

Comments
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Autocracy in Cobb
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June 18, 2014
“I am very pleased with the outcome that all the accusations were found to be baseless, and it was my belief that this would occur because I truly believe that the charges were baseless,” Lee said.

Of course Tim is pleased. He can do anything he wants anytime he wants to anybody he wants, except for his friend-Johnny Schuerholz. Tim is hapless, reckless and has made a large mess. Why is Cobb ALWAYS in the news? Hardly a newscast goes by that doesn't mention Cobb.
Negavites
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June 18, 2014
The funny thing is these negavites think they have the support of Cobb's citizens when in fact we are almost totally for the Braves heading to Cobb and are getting sick of these frivolous whiners.
HotinAtlanta
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June 18, 2014
Of course it did. Not surprising since Tim Lee has everyone in his pocket and has been the one to hide this whole deal from us tax payers from the start. Out right criminals. We need to get these paid off politicians out of office NOW before they spend any more of our tax dollars without our permission!!!!
Braves Ball
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June 18, 2014
Commission's new theme song-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHvpPdD0KfU

Gwinnett Braves
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June 18, 2014
Mr Savage is not just a retired businessman, he ran against Lee twice and lost both times. He is a sore loser and should be called out for this. And if he had won we would be talking about the Gwinnett Braves.
Hank Moody
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June 18, 2014
Like everything with the anti-Braves campaign, the accusations are baseless and without merit. They are using every vehicle available (the press, the ethics board, I am sure a frivolous lawsuit is on its way) to them to try and make as much stink as possible in a pathetic effort for the spot light.

Perhaps they should form a chess league or something more productive to occupy their time...
frivolous and basele
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June 18, 2014
Shouldn't people who file frivolous ethics complaints and lawsuits, have to pay the costs of the "winner"? That might stop "Bats" Pelfrey and his cohorts.
Just eat it
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June 18, 2014
There's a new lunch special at the Stadium Diner- They bring you anything and you eat it.
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