The ethics board rejected the complaint filed by retired businessman Larry Savage of east Cobb in a vote of 6-1, with the Rev. Walter Moon opposed.
Savage believes the county does not have the authority to create special tax districts to help finance the proposed $672 million stadium planned near Cumberland Mall.
Retired Lt. Col. Mike Patellis of east Cobb, who chairs the ethics board, said while some may have questions about the legality of the tax districts, that was a matter for the court system.
“We did not have the information from the attorneys that advised the parties in concern, and consequently, by us not having it, we don’t know if the information given to them by the attorneys was right or wrong or what they based it on. That’s not our job,” Patellis said. “Our job is to say, ‘Do we feel that you made a good call based on the information you got?’ … We felt like there was not a bad call made based on what information they got.”
Moon, a pastor of Words of Faith AME Church in Mableton, said he voted against dismissing the ethics complaint because he needed more information.
“Since it was not clear in my mind, I didn’t want it to be on my conscience that it would appear I just rubber stamped the action of the commission,” Moon said.
Savage expressed dismay after the meeting, objecting to the board dismissing his complaint without conducting a hearing to review the evidence.
“I think they came in here with the votes already known,” Savage said. “I think they came in here knowing ‘We’re not going to touch this. It’s controversy.’ They’ve got friends, they’ve got family, they’ve got contacts who said ‘Make this go away.’ It might not have been said out loud, but I think it’s implicit in any discussion about it.”
County Chairman Tim Lee said he was never worried about Savage’s complaint.
“I had absolutely no doubt in my mind that it would be tossed,” Lee said. “I’m working very hard to be open and thorough in making sure everything that we do is on the up and up, so I had no concerns at all when the complaint was filed that it would be found baseless.”
Commissioner JoAnn Birrell had a similar take on the vote.
“I think that’s what was expected since we knew there was nothing of substance there, nothing illegal,” Birrell said. “I’m very pleased with the outcome.”
Savage wouldn’t rule out appealing the decision to Cobb Superior Court.
“It’s an avenue that remains open,” he said.
Were that to happen, Lee said he’s not concerned about a court challenge either.
“If he thinks that’s the best way to use his money, then he should go forward with it, but I think it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money to have to defend something so frivolous,” Lee said.