The Fayette County Ethics Board will be holding its second hearing since its inception in November, this time to hear charges against Fayette County Board of Commissioners Chairman Steve Brown.
As a parting shot out the door of his term, departing county commissioner Robert Horgan filed an ethics complaint against Brown, charging that he violated at least two sections of the county’s ethics ordinance.
Horgan’s complaint charges that Brown “gave a direct instruction to the county’s Human Resources director, Lewis Patterson, to seek a legal opinion from the state attorney general.”
Horgan’s evidence of the alleged violation was attached to the complaint in the form of a letter from Brown dated November 12, in which notes he asked Patterson to contact the attorney general’s office.
In 2-209(n) of the ethics ordinance, Horgan points out, “commissioners shall not, acting alone, make suggestions to the department director or their employees regarding the performance of their duties, nor give instructions to the department directors or other employees.”
In a second offense, according to Horgan, Brown is also guilty of violating Executive Session rules.
“On March 9, Commissioner Brown wrote a letter to Attorney General Sam Olens. In this letter, Commissioner Brown disclosed conversations between the county attorney and the board of commissioners in executive session.
“By disclosing legal advice provided to the commissioners from the county attorney to a third party, Commissioner Brown has waved the attorney/client privilege regarding this advice from the board’s counsel. Also, because this information was part of an executive session, Commissioner Brown has disclosed to others matters discussed in executive session.”
It’s the not the first time Horgan has filed a complaint against Brown. At the end of November 2012, Horgan filed a formal complaint charging Brown and three then-commissioners-elect of violating the state’s open meetings act.
In his letter to State Attorney General Sam Olens, Horgan points out that during the process “they held two meetings, one on September 26, 2012 and one on September 27, 2012, for the purpose of interviewing and selecting a county administrator. Despite these interviews being scheduled well in advance of their meeting, this committee did not notify the local newspaper of their meeting, did not prepare and post an agenda for their meeting, and did not allow the public to participate in their meeting.
“Due to the pre-scheduled interviews, the committee had adequate time to post the meeting date and time on the county’s web site. It did not. The committee did not notify in written or oral notice at least 24 hours in advance to the legal organ or any other paper in our community that has general circulation. I have been informed that there was not a written agenda presented at the beginning of the meeting.”
Back in early October, the selection committee had narrowed down the search from a long list of nearly 30 to five top contenders and then on September 26 and 27 set up interviews with those five candidates. However, the committee, made up of county commissioners Steve Brown and Allan McCarty and commissioners-elect charles Oddo, Randy Ognio and David Barlow, did not advertise the executive session meetings in the Fayette County News, the county’s legal organ, within the prescribed 24-hour period prior to the meeting.
Brown said he would just leave the matter to be heard by the new board of ethics members and let them decide, but, in the meantime, in late December 2012 he offered his objection to the continued participation of Brooks Mayor Dan Langford on the board.
Brown, who has consistently been a critic of the makeup of the ethics board, sent a memo to county clerk Floyd Jones regarding the board members.
“I am requesting that Mayor Dan Langford abstain from sitting on this hearing when his council conducts business with the Fayette County government. Elected officials do not belong on an Ethics Board.”
Langford himself had questioned the possibility of serving and had offered his fellow board members an “open-ended resignation” if they felt that he did not belong on the board. At its first meeting, the board decided to keep Langford in his position.
The hearing will be held Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the county commission office.