The Dunwoody Board of Ethics delayed hearing two controversial ethics complaints until August, choosing instead to use its July 10 meeting to take care of legal housekeeping.
The board was scheduled to discuss an ethics complaint filed against City Councilwoman Adrian Bonser for allegedly leaking confidential information as well as a complaint Bonser filed against the mayor, other City Council members, the city manager, and former city attorney for allegedly holding an improper private meeting.
According to Dunwoody’s laws, Bonser has 30 days to respond to the ethics complaint that was filed against her.
“This is the first complaint that has actually reached the formal complaint stage,” Board of Ethics Chairman Steven Blaske said. “We don’t have her response to the complaint and her 30 days haven’t run out yet. I don’t see how we can consider the case.”
A July 3 letter from Bonser’s attorney Matthew Reeves made it clear that it was not a formal response, implying that a separate response was forthcoming.
Reeves said the ethics complaint is being used to target Bonser and not appropriate for the ethics board because it “is an overly political matter which cannot be handled in compliance with traditional notions of due process.”
He accused the mayor and other City Council members of misusing the Board of Ethics as a political tool.
The letter claims Mayor Mike Davis asked Bonser to leave office before an investigation was complete because he is “trying to get rid of the first woman city councilmember, who has seniority over the mayor, strong public support, and is a watchdog over the city manager’s spending and other activities.”
Davis has declined to comment on the letter, saying he would like to “leave it to the ethics board and not interfere with what they’re doing.”
In the four-page letter, Reeves asks Richard Carothers, the attorney recommended as counsel for the ethics board, to step down.
Carothers was recommended because of his experience handling ethics complaints, most recently in the city of Milton.
But Bonser told the council she thought Carothers should not be hired in favor of allowing the Board of Ethics to select its own attorney.
Reeves states in his letter that Carothers would not truly be independent counsel for the Board of Ethics because he has been interviewed and vetted by City Manager Warren Hutmacher.
But Carothers told the board he didn’t know any of the council members and had only met Hutmacher a decade earlier, when the city manager was working in Avondale Estates.
“I don’t think I have any conflicts and I’m ready to proceed if you want me,” Carothers said.
The ethics board unanimously approved Carothers as their attorney.
Blaske opened the meeting by asking the newly appointed attorney about writing bylaws for the board.
The meeting was just the third time the ethics board had met. Blaske said former City Attorney Brian Anderson never drafted rules for the ethics board to follow.
Carothers suggested the board use the Sandy Springs ethics board’s rules as a starting point, rather than drafting bylaws from scratch. The board members also agreed that they would like to consolidate the two ethics complaints into one hearing since they share similar circumstances.
Earlier this year, Davis hired former DeKalb County District Attorney Bob Wilson to conduct an investigation after information from the City Council’s executive sessions was leaked to the public. In his report, Wilson pointed to Bonser and Anderson as the people responsible. Both have denied leaking the information. In May, Anderson resigned and agreed to a severance package with the city in lieu of termination.