Mayoral candidate forum scheduled Feb. 13

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Mayor Mike Eason

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The Dawson County Chamber of Commerce will host a candidate forum Tuesday, Feb. 13, at 6 p.m. at the Dawson County Performing Arts Center at 1665 Perimeter Road to introduce the candidates in the upcoming special election for Mayor of Dawsonville.

The format will allow citizens to submit questions to be asked of the candidates — current mayor Mike Eason and former Mayor James Grogan — at info@dawson.org. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m.

The deadline to register in this election is Feb. 20. Election Day is March 20 when polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. To register to vote, change your address or view a sample ballot, visit www.mvp.sos.ga.gov.

Former Mayor James Grogan

Advanced voting begins Feb. 26 with all voting taking place at the Dawson County Board of Elections office at 96 Academy Avenue. Advanced voting will be held Monday through Friday through March 16 from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

This special election is to fill the unexpired term of mayor. The candidate that is elected will serve as mayor until December 2018.

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

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Lt. Governor Casey Cagle Visits Dawsonville

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From left Sen. Steve Gooch, Bill Elliott and Lt. Governor Casey Cagle

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Former NASCAR great Bill Elliott — better known as Awesome Bill from Dawsonville —  and a large contingent of community leaders welcomed Lt. Governor Casey Cagle to Dawsonville Wednesday morning.  Cagle is in the midst of a 17-stop bus tour of north Georgia to promote his campaign for governor.

You have to wonder if Elliott gave the Hall County Republican some inside tips on how to make a quick pit stop because after spending a little quality time with Dawson County community leaders and a quick stump speech, Cagle sped off to Pickens, Gilmer, Gordon, and Whitfield counties.

Before getting back on the road, Cagle visited with Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond, Commissioners Jimmy Hamby and Chris Gaines, Mayor James Grogan, County Manager David Headley, Sherriff Jeff Johnson and Chamber President Christie Hayes.

Former Commission Chairman Mike Berg introduced the lieutenant governor who didn’t need much of an introduction since he once represented the county as State Senator and has been lieutenant governor for eight years.

Cagle’s said he would focus on transportation, jobs, education and providing broadband to rural areas of Georgia

Cagle said, Georgia needs a transportation plan to accommodate a population growth of about 4.5 million people in the next 15 years.

“We have to get busy with a two-year strategic plan built around transportation that is able to go under, go over, go around, whatever is required to prepared ourselves for the kind of growth that is coming.”

On jobs, Cagle said he wants to build a world-class workforce second to none. “As I woke up this morning there were 150,000 jobs available today and out of that 150,000, 25 percent need four-year degrees but 75 percent need industry certification or a two-year degree. So, I want to make sure we are aligning education with what industry needs.”

On education he said, “The college and career education network I created reshapes the way we deliver education, giving our kids more options.”

Cagle also repeated his pledge of 500,000 new jobs during his first term in office and $100 million in tax cuts in the first 100 days.

Cagle said he understands how important broadband access is to education and to attracting business to Georgia and he fired a salvo over the heads of broadband internet providers.

“We’re going to have best in class as it pertains to rural broadband,” he said. “I’m going to set a standard that I expect every single provider in this state to reach. I know we have a problem with last mile so we’ll be looking at technology that will allow us to provide that. But I’m not going to accept any excuses. The providers are going to get in gear to make this a reality or we’re going to find someone that can. It’s just that simple.

Asked if the state school board members should be elected or appointed, he said, “Many people believe that the superintendent should be appointed almost like a cabinet position. I don’t believe that having an elected state school board is going to fundamentally improve education.”

On what has been a highly controversial religious freedom bill, Cagle said, “I and the other candidates have signed a pledge that if there is a federal mirror Xerox copy of what is already federal law that comes to my desk, I will sign it. There are a lot of social issues out there that are very divisive. As a born-again Christian, with a strong belief in religious freedom, I don’t want anyone trampling on that. As governor, I am also not for discrimination. So we’re not using this in a way that will cloak ourselves in a way that allows us to discriminate. So, these are balancing acts. We’ll do it in a way that doesn’t cost us business.”

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

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Judge Fuller Could Rule This Week on City’s Motion to Dismiss Mayor James Grogan’s Appeal

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City Attorney Dana Miles

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Enotah Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge C. Andrew Fuller could rule as early as this week on a  motion to dismiss an appeal by Mayor James Grogan of his impeachment by the Dawsonville City Council.

City council has accused Grogan of violations of the city charter and, on May 15 by a vote of 3-1 with Councilman Mike Sosebee opposed, removed him from office.

Steven Leibel

Grogan and his attorney Steven Leibel immediately filed an appeal de novo in Superior Court and the mayor was reinstated while the appeal process played out.

City Attorney Dana Miles then filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the appeal for a new trial de novo is not the correct method and that the only method for review is by certiorari.

Leibel countered that Miles is wrong and that the legislature gave his client the right to determine if he wants to go by cert or de novo.

If the appeal is not dismissed, Miles wants Grogan removed from office and his salary of approximately $3,600 per month and benefits returned to the city.

Fetch Your News has reported the decision to impeach the mayor has already cost taxpayers approximately $73,000.

Grogan is accused of lowering rezoning fees for applicants without prior approval of city council, allowing a business to pay a lower rate for water/sewer service without prior approval of city council and approval of payments to non-profit groups, something that has been a common practice of the city for many years.

Grogan has maintained his innocence and said he has done nothing wrong.

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4 Candidates Vie in City Council Candidate Forum

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Four candidates running for Dawsonville City Council presented the reasons they believe they should be elected during the candidate forum at the Dawson County Performing Arts Center Tuesday.

The event was hosted by the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce. Reporters from Fetch Your News, Dawson News and Smoke Signals served as panelists. Chamber President Christine Haynes was the moderator.

The incumbents, Councilwoman Angie Smith and Councilman Mike Sosebee, made their case based on their experience in holding public office. The challengers, Mark French and Stephen Tolson, presented strong and relevant work experiences.

City Council candidates (from left) Mark French, Angie Smith, Mike Sosebee and Stephen Tolson. (Photo courtesy of Dawson County Chamber of Commerce).

French has 20 years’ experience in public service. He spent 10 years working in Lumpkin County’s Finance Office and 10 years as the county’s grants analyst before entering the private sector. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from what was then North Georgia College and State University where he majored in Finance.

French said the biggest challenge for Dawsonville is “how to engage more participation from the people we serve.” He suggested the best way to do that is to make sure the meetings are more open to the public. “I’d like to see the website updated so that those who have a different work schedule will at least have an opportunity to see what is going on in their community,” he said.

He also stressed the importance of working in cooperation with county government to develop a more aggressive revitalization plan for downtown. “I believe that can be the springboard to our future,” he said. “It would also allow an opportunity for controlled, managed, quality growth.”

Tolson is a U.S. Army Ranger who retired after 20 years of service. He earned a Master’s Degree in Health Administration and a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. He now manages a medical group in Forsyth County.

He said his management experience would be an asset to city council. “As a manager, the evaluation of business needs, planning and forecasting needs for the future and executing those plans is a big part of my responsibility.”

During his military career, Tolson said he participated in many short- and long-term planning sessions. “I believe that experience can be beneficial on city council,” he said. “I also attended a number of military training schools that teach you to utilize your decision-making process and problem solving techniques and to introduce a little common sense into the process.”

Smith, a lifelong resident of Dawson County, is seeking her second full term in office. She was appointed to the board in 2012 and won her first election in 2013.

In her opening statement, she expressed a commitment to honoring the community’s heritage and to personal honesty and integrity.

“I want to work hard to see this community grow and prosper,” she said. “To me, our heritage is extremely important. We have to remember those who came before us and who laid the ground work for us to be successful.”

Smith added, “Service with integrity is a goal of mine. Honesty to a fault is what you’ll get from me. It’s not always about the end result. It’s not always about the list of accomplishments. It’s about how that work was done and the honesty and integrity you carry yourself with.”

Candidates had divergent opinions when asked about the impeachment of Mayor James Grogan that took place earlier this year. Grogan was removed by a 3-2 vote of city council, but the removal is currently under appeal.

Candidates were asked if three council members should possess the power to override the vote of citizens of Dawsonville or if that decision should be left up to the voters.

Smith, one of the council members who voted to remove the mayor, said, “We can always have a conversation about how things need to be changed of if they need to be changed. But the fact of the matter is when you are sitting in office, you have a set of rules that guides you and that set of rules is what you are charged with fulfilling.”

Tolson said, “Certain decisions that are made should be offered up to the citizens. There are many circumstances that council should be able to make a call but in a situation of this nature, I really do think it should be offered to the people.”

French said, “It occurs to me that just because something is legal doesn’t mean it is right. I believe being a good public servant means you should listen to the community and get their input. I believe it merits an evaluation of all sides. Not just the leaders’ side.”

Sosebee, who voted against removing the mayor, said, “We are representatives of the people and we need to have a lot of input from the people to help us make decisions…not just those of us who sit on the council trying to make all the decisions.”

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

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Dawsonville City Council Reviews Proposed FY 2017-18 Budget

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City Clerk Bonnie Warne

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – City Clerk Bonnie Warren gave Dawsonville City Council members a preliminary look at the proposed $5,028,765.79 FY 2017-18 budget at Monday’s work session.

The new spending plan reflects approximately $503,000 increase over the current budget which ends June 30. Public hearings are scheduled for June 5 and 19. Council will adopt the approved budget by resolution during the June 19th council meeting.

The General Fund budget is projected to be $1,651,707. Other major sources of revenue are projected to be $1,445,797.72 (water and sewer enterprise fund),  $1,151,200 (SPLOST VI) and $415,000 (sewer and water taps).

Council also discussed the ongoing problem of residents in Gold Creek, a planned unit development (PUD), wanting to be annexed into the city. Many live on a small island in the county that is located inside the city. Attorney Dana Miles was instructed to research island issues faced by other cities and create a draft for the next meeting.

The city’s new Planning & Zoning Director Casey Majewski asked for council’s direction relative to a Peddler’s License.

Following an executive session, City Manager Bob Bolz released a prepared statement explaining the return of Mayor James Grogan. It read:

“May 15, 2017, James Grogan was removed as Mayor by a 3-1 vote of the Dawsonville City Council.  After Mr. Grogan received confirmation of that decision in writing from the City of Dawsonville, Mr. Grogan’s counsel filed a “Notice of Appeal”. 

Based upon the code relied upon by James Grogan in his Notice of Appeal cover letter, Mr. Grogan will continue to act as Mayor of Dawsonville during this portion of the appellate proceedings, until a decision as to his continued service can be obtained from the Dawson County Superior Court.  It is hoped this will limit the number of issues on appeal, so that a timely and efficient resolution of this dispute can be achieved for the City of Dawsonville and its citizens.”


Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at www.fetchyournews.com

 

 

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Scathing Report Alleges Mayor Violated City Charter

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MAYOR JAMES GROGANDAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The Dawsonville City Council voted unanimously Monday to begin a process that could lead to the removal of Mayor James Grogan from office following a report that alleges he repeatedly violated the City Code and Charter.

A public hearing has been set for May 15 that could determine the mayor’s fate.

City Manager Bob Bolz said council members requested a city-wide investigation last month to see if anything needed to be “changed, stopped or done” to ensure city officials were in compliance with the charter. The investigation was performed by Gainesville City Attorney Abbott Hayes who reported his findings at Monday’s regular meeting.

Hayes alleged Grogan had been paid for meetings not authorized by City Council, charged alcohol and gasoline to his city-issued credit card, allowed a state representative to pay the lower residential rate for water, sewer and garbage for a business instead of the appropriate commercial rate and that he authorized lower fees for rezoning applications than those set by Council.

In responding to the charges, Grogan said, “I’ve never been so shocked in all my life. I’m disappointed in Council and what they have laid out. A lot of things they have pointed out go back five years and we’ve made a lot of policy changes since then. I didn’t do anything wrong. This is the result of a witch hunt that has been conducted by two city council members against me for the last year and a half.”

Grogan added that he has no intention of resigning. “I’m going to continue to do the job the people elected me to do.”

Hayes report alleges that in 2015, when State Rep. Kevin Tanner complained about paying the higher commercial rate for city water, sewer and garbage on behalf of Tanco Investments, LLC, Grogan unilaterally allowed him to pay the lower residential rate instead.

Between 2013 and 2015, Hayes said, Grogan approved donations to nonprofit organizations, including golf tournaments in which he participated as a player. When the City Attorney pointed out that donations to nonprofit organizations by the City violates the gratuities clause of the Georgia State Constitution the payments stopped.

The City Charter provides for the mayor to be paid a monthly compensation of $2,000 plus $100 “for each specially called city council meeting, work session or other meeting that has been pre-approved by the council. But Hayes alleges that Grogan charged the City for meetings that were not pre-approved by Council.

Finally, Hayes alleges that in Nov. 2014, Grogan instructed city employee Sara Beachem to purchase four bottles of alcohol for him to give as a door prize at a regional government dinner. The report states that the Mayor’s unilateral decision to purchase alcohol for use as a door prize without approval of City Council violated the City Code and Charter.

Section 5.15 of the City Charter provides the mayor shall be subject to removal for any one or more of the following causes: Incompetence, misfeasance or malfeasance in office; Abandonment of office or neglect to perform the duties thereof or Failure for any other cause to perform the duties of office as required by this Charter or by law.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Warne Leaving as Dawsonville City Clerk

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City Clerk Bonnie Warne

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Longtime Dawsonville City Clerk Bonnie Warne has resigned to accept the same position with the City of Tucker.

Wednesday will be the final day for Warne, who began her employment with Dawsonville in 2005 and was promoted to city clerk in 2010

Warne said the collapse of a section of I-85 this spring was the decisive factor in her departure.

“My husband has worked in Tucker for many years and had been making the long commute from Dawsonville. When the bridge collapsed it just got longer and longer.”

City Manager Bob Bolz

The city threw Warne a farewell party at city hall Tuesday.

City Manager Bob Bolz said Warne, who was highly regarded by the staff, turned in her resignation two weeks ago and that he hated to see her go.

Mayor James Grogan agreed, saying the city is losing a valuable asset. “This is a big loss for the city,” he said. She was excellent in everything she did. The city has won the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting (CAFR) three years in a row and she deserves a lot of credit for that.”

Warne also was highly thought of by the media that covers Dawsonville. She always responded to their requests quickly and accurately.

Mayor James Grogan

“The hardest thing to do is leaving Dawsonville,” she said, but added that her new job is a perfect fit. “It is the answer to a lot of prayers,” she said.

Councilman Mike Sosebee agreed. “She was very good. We will miss her.”
Wednesday will be Warne’s final day on her job.

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

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City Imposes Moratorium on New Demolitions until 2017

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — The Dawsonville City Council voted unanimously Monday to place a moratorium on the permitting of any demolition of a city building until Jan. 14, 2017.

The moratorium does not impact demolition already permitted. City Attorney Dana Miles said, “Anything currently permitted can move forward. But no new permits will be issued.”

Council also discussed a vendor ordinance to designate a place for mobile vendors to set up shop and to facilitate parking. Mayor Grogan pointed out, “We have a place for our farmer’s market but we need some place for mobile vendors too. Other cities have mobile food trucks and we need a place for them.” Council agreed to consider an ordinance and place it on the agenda for the next regular meeting, Nov. 7.

There was also discussion about drafting a Historic Preservation Ordinance Amendment to protect historic homes from demolition. Miles indicated that the City of Gainesville has a good ordinance that could serve as a model.  “It should be part of a comprehensive policy. I would recommend you not take any action now, but give me time to draft an ordinance and put it on the agenda for Nov. 7.”

The mayor pointed out that there are many homes along Main Street that built in the 1930s and should be preserved.

Council also discussed adopting a tree ordinance. “This came up because of the demise of so many trees on Perimeter that have been subjected to clear cutting,” Grogan said. Items discussed during a work session can be voted on at the next regular meeting Nov. 7.

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