Ethics complaint against Kennesaw Mayor Mathews over public funds use dismissed
by Ricky Leroux
August 31, 2014 04:00 AM | 3366 views | 6 6 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
KENNESAW — A recent ethics complaint against Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews was dismissed by the city’s ethics board at its meeting Thursday evening, but one City Council member said the matter should have been handled by the council.

The complaint was filed by Bill Harris, a Kennesaw resident and longtime critic of Mathews, on Aug. 12. Harris alleged the mayor improperly used public funds on a personal matter when the city’s attorney drafted a cease and desist letter directing Harris to stop publishing on his website: mayormathews.blogspot.com.

Mathews said he was made aware of the website by Kennesaw citizens, who also told him some residents believed he made the statements written on the site.

Harris claims Mathews used more than $1,000 in public funds for the city’s attorney, Randall Bentley, to draft the letter.

In an email to the MDJ, Mathews would not comment on the complaint itself, but said he appreciated the work done by the ethics board.

“Our Ethics Board is made up of a great mix of our community and serve voluntarily. I appreciate the time and work done by our Ethics Board, and I look forward to their continued commitment to our city. I look forward to working with our council, staff and many wonderful volunteers to continue the growth and help work towards a bright future for Kennesaw,” the mayor wrote.

Kennesaw Council member Cris Eaton-Welsh said she understood Harris’ position, but the issue should have been handled by the City Council.

“The way that the complaint was written, our regulations don’t allow for (Mathews) to be reprimanded for anything that was done there,” she said. “That was really something that we, as a council, should have done with the mayor in private and address the situation. And we weren’t given the time or opportunity because the complaint was filed.”

Eaton-Welsh said she was not present at the ethics meeting, but she believed the complaint was dismissed because the City Council gave Bentley its approval to draft the letter.

“We did approve the expenditure for the cease and desist letter. However, I, as a council member, feel like I was misled when (Mathews) said that he did not say anything that was posted on this website when actually there is video that has him speaking it verbatim,” she said.

Eaton-Welsh is referring to a post on Harris’ website written April 4 containing quotes the mayor made before a Kennesaw State University journalism class March 19, a video of which was posted online.

Eaton-Welsh said she was not aware of the video when the council voted to approve Bentley’s expenses and took Mathews’ word on the matter.

“Then it gets further and worse when we see the rest of the video and the majority of the video is bashing the new council. That’s just no way to create a tone in our community,” she said.

Harris, a retired retail operations investigator, said he was not surprised by the complaint being dismissed, and he rated the chance of a ruling in his favor at 33 percent.

“I would not argue with anyone who might opine that since the Kennesaw Ethics Board was appointed by the mayor and old council that he controlled, any complaints against the mayor might be expected to fail,” he said.

Harris said a correspondent of his suggested he bring his complaint to the state level “now that the State Ethics Board seems to have finally gotten their ducks in a row.”

While he said he is considering this option, he has not made a decision whether to do so.

“If I go forward at state level, I may this time spend a few bucks on an attorney. It is an important and interesting issue and deserves a better response than it was given by our local ethics board,” Harris said.

The Kennesaw Ethics Board is composed of Chairman James Walth, Terri Copeland, Eric Dec, Glenn Dawkins and Robert Quigley, communications director for Cobb County. Members serve two-year terms, according to the Kennesaw city government’s website.

Walth said he had no comment on the complaint or its dismissal, but provided an accounting of the ethics board’s actions at its meeting.

“I do not have any comments to offer at this time. The Board of Ethics met (Thursday) and came to conclusion on each of the charges detailed in Mr. Harris’ ethics complaint. In accordance with the Code aof Ethics on record, Sec: 2-99 (9), we have provided our findings to Kennesaw’s Governing Authority for such action as the governing authority deems appropriate,” he wrote in an email to the MDJ.

The complaint consisted of four parts. The first accused the mayor of using the city attorney for a personal matter. Copeland motioned to dismiss the allegation “as patently unfounded,” according to a draft version of the minutes of the meeting, which state the motion was approved 4-0 with Dawkins absent.

The second portion of the complaint stated the mayor engaged in improper activity by receiving unwarranted, free legal representation. Copeland again motioned to dismiss the allegation as unfounded, and it passed 4-0, the draft version of the minutes state.

The third allegation stated the mayor engaged in malfeasance by requiring the city attorney to perform a harmful act in violation of a public trust. Quigley motioned to dismiss this complaint because “the facts stated were insufficient to invoke the disciplinary jurisdiction of the board,” according to the minutes of the meeting.

The motion passed 3-1, with Dec opposed.

Finally, the complaint alleged the mayor used his position to require Bentley to perform work beyond the city attorney’s normal scope of employment.” Dec motioned to dismiss the allegation as unfounded, which passed 4-0.

Comments
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Pants On Fire
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September 01, 2014
So.....let me get this straight.

The city PAID (using citizens money) to draft a letter because the mayor LIED about saying things?

If he did in fact make these statements, and then LIED about it, saying he did not. Why isn't he up on ethics charges for that????????? Why isn't the council repremanding the mayor for lying? Why isn't the council doing ANYTHING to get this mess straightened out?

I guess the mayor has dirty info on all the other city council members. That's the only explaination as to why the council never does anything about him.
Bruce Jenkins
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September 01, 2014
This and other recent posts on the MDJ, has become questionable on the heart of those who are leadership. We must as leaders understand the simple concept of getting over something before its said. Give up the right to be angry, bitter and resentful. Stop punishing people. That's what Ephesians 4:31 says: "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice." I talked to someone once who was angry because some family members had cheated her out of some the family inheritance. She had been angry for several years and was considering legal action. I suggested that she forgive them and get past her anger and resentment (regardless of what she did about the money). She emphatically told me, "I have the right to feel this way!" I replied, "No you don't -- not if you're a Christian." We surrender our rights to Jesus as Lord. He commands to forgive. The Scripture teaches us to "get rid of bitterness."

I was talking to a friend one day about the need to get over hurtful experiences. He said to get over it before it happens! In other words, you need to know things are going to go wrong and you're going to hurt in life, and decide now that you are going to get over it and not stay stuck in that place of hurt, anger and resentment. The people of Edom did not come to Israel's rescue when they were attacked and destroyed by war because they "harbored an ancient hostility" (Ezek 35:5). Don't keep stirring the pot. Let it go.

James Garfield was President for less than four months when he was shot in the back on July 2, 1881. While the President remained conscious, the doctor probed the wound with his little finger, searching unsuccessfully for the bullet. Over the course of the summer, a team of doctors tried to locate the bullet. The President clung to life through July and August, but in September he died. He didn't die from the gunshot wound but from infection. The constant probing of the wound ultimately killed him. So it is with our hurts. The more we probe the past wounds the more infection spreads throughout our souls and poisons our relationships.
Leaderless
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August 31, 2014
Well, here we go again, more non stick ethic charges on the mayor, the guy should change his name to "Pam"...nothing sticks to him. As for poor poor Crissy, she couldn't lead any kind of "handling of it" ; she is afraid of Matthews, mainly cause she wants to be mayor, (please help us) or she doesn't know how to cut down all her drama. This bunch is so dysfunctional, a team of head shrinks couldn't help them. 9 months of work on no smoking in parks, (this makes sense, we can have a gun but you light a cigarette they throw you in the clink, really logical) and a bunch still couldn't find their bottoms with a map, a guide and a seeing eye dog. I for one would like to have some leadership. Someone who doesn't just use fancy mailers for elections filled with promises they won't deliver. Can we find somebody in Kennesaw who knows what to do, does it and doesn't have to have their photo every week in the paper like Crissy and Mark??? I am so leaderless in Kennesaw.
Be Careful
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August 31, 2014
Cris Welsh says the council "should have" handled it. Then do it. Why should the fact that a citizen filed an ethics complaint stop the council from properly handling the situation with the mayor.

If it needs to be addressed, then address it.

Are you saying that because a citizen filed a complaint that takes the councils power to act on it's own away?

Elections can't come soon enough.
Bill in Kennesaw
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August 31, 2014
My complaint listed 5, not 4 issues and I have emailed the Board Chairman James Walth, as follows:

Per your draft minutes it seems that your board did not take up a major part of my complaint. Why not?

"Sec. 2-94, Disclosure of Conflicts of Interest. The mayor had a clear conflict of interest in attempting to bully a blogger (myself) who had been a critic of his administration over a period of 10 months. The issue was and remains one that the mayor should have taken up with a private attorney paid for out of his own funds and not by using the City Attorney to take up the matter."
James Walth
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September 01, 2014
Currently, the existing Code of ethics does not address bullying as an issue. Therefore the Board of Ethics had no other recourse but to disregard complaint 2-94 which does not speak to bullying. Section 2-94 specifically requires any member of the governing authority who either an interest or an ongoing relationship with a business or individual arising out of the normal course of commerce to disclose such relationships to the Board of ethics on an annual basis. (See Code of ethics Sec:2-94 for a complete description)
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