By DOUG NURSE The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 10/19/07
The Milton City Council, not even a year old, has reached a dubious milestone: A majority of its members have had ethics complaints filed against them.
On Thursday, a complaint was filed against City Council member Julie Zahner Bailey, making her the fourth member of the seven-member governing board to be accused of violating the city's code of ethics. So far, not a single complaint has been found to have merit.
The complaint, filed by Bill Fantozzi, said that Zahner Bailey "in her authoritative and persuasive position as council member" coerced City Community Development Director Tom Wilson into sending a city planner to oppose a development being considered by the Alpharetta City Council on July 23.
Zahner Bailey is up for re-election on Nov. 6.
The development, Shops at Crabapple, is near the border of the two cities, and was approved.
Zahner Bailey claims the complaint is frivolous, saying Fantozzi is active in the campaign of her opponent, Roger Santi. She said Fantozzi also supports sewer lines in Milton, which Zahner Bailey opposes.
"Given the negative tactics of my opponent's campaign to this point, it is not surprising that someone engaged in my opponent's campaign would make these unfounded and politically motivated allegations," she said in a statement. "This is a waste of tax payer resources..."
Fantozzi claims that Zahner Bailey violated the city's Code of Ethics requiring city council members work through the city manager and prohibiting council members from directly giving orders to staff. The complaint alleges that Zahner Bailey broke the rules when she:
• Directed Wilson to take a position on a matter pending in Alpharetta;
• Required Wilson to write a letter to the Alpharetta City Council stating the position of the Milton City Council;
• Required Wilson to send Planner Mike Tuller to the Alpharetta meeting.
Fantozzi further questioned whether Zahner Bailey unilaterally set the city's policy on the project without approval of the city manager or the city council.
Fantozzi said in his complaint that Wilson on Wednesday told him and two other men, "I would not have recommended denial without her strong influence." Fantozzi said Wilson also told them he would not have recommended denial if she were not a council member, and that he felt coerced by her.
Ethics complaints were also filed against council members Neal O'Brien and Bill Lusk by a supporter of Zahner Bailey, and another was filed against Mayor Joe Lockwood by a supporter of Council member Rick Mohrig. All were dismissed by the city ethics board.
The city subsequently revised the ethics code to better define what constitutes an ethics violation and to establish penalties for filing frivolous ethics complaints.