City Council Adopts Social Media Policy

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The Dawsonville City Council has adopted a highly restrictive social media policy that applies to all city employees “without regard to whether their social media activity is conducted in or outside the workplace, while on or off-duty.”

Interestingly enough, the policy defines employees not only as those employed by the city but also as public officials elected by the city and any Authority or Commission member appointed by those in public office.

The policy specifies that “employees engaging in social media activity in violation of the policy will be held accountable, and corrective and/or disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment may be taken in accordance with the City’s disciplinary policies.”

Prohibited activity includes, but is not limited to, endorsing violence or illegal activity, promoting or endorsing the abuse of alcohol or drugs and engaging in conduct unbecoming an employee of the City or bringing discredit to the City.

In general, the term “social activity” refers to MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, YouTube, Tumblr and Blogger.

It discourages employees from identifying themselves as city employees and encourages whistle blowing by employees by stating “all employees have an ongoing duty to report any violations of this policy by any other employee.”

The policy also states, “Nothing in this policy is intended or will be applied in a manner that violates an employee’s constitutional rights, including rights to freedom of speech and association, or Federal or State rights to engage in statutorily protected activity.”


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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Ethics Hearing Raises Dark Cloud Over Request by Atlanta Motorsports Park to Relax Restrictions

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Former DDA member Seanie Zappendorf resigns following an ethics complaint.

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – On Monday, the same Dawsonville City Council that once appointed Seanie Zappendorf to the Downtown Development Authority will appoint a commission to hear an ethics complaint against her.

Zappendorf  is accused of misrepresenting herself as a city employee while lobbying on behalf of Atlanta Motorsports Park (AMP), a company in which she and her husband have a business interest.

DDA Chairman Jeremy Porter

Seanie and Ron Zappendorf own Discovery Parts, a racing parts store located inside AMP. The facility is seeking to have city council relax sound, lighting and hours of operation restrictions at the facility. Track owner Jeremy Porter is chairman of the DDA on which Zappendorf served until her resignation May 8.

Her resignation follows a letter of complaint sent from Carlita Parks to City Manager Bob Bolz on April 27 in which Mrs. Parks says Zappendorf told her she works for the City. Members of the DDA are not city employees.

Parks wrote: “My husband and I were working in our yard on 4/15/2017 when Mrs. Seanie Zappendorf approached me in her vehicle. Mrs. Zappendorf inquired about my opinions on AMP and asked if I had any complaints about the noise. During the discussion, I voiced my concern about the highly noticeable noises that frequently occurred because of the AMP. Mrs. Zappendorf gave me her “City of Dawsonville” business card and asked me to contact her if we had any further complaints about the noise. She did say that she works for the city but didn’t state working for the city council (although Mrs. Zappendorf is an investor at AMP).”

Parks said she did as requested and called Zappendorf on April 18 to complain about the public address system and was told, “If the few people who are against AMP speak up about their opposition, the people who support AMP will become afraid their homes will be vandalized.”

In her complaint, Parks added, “I am a registered nurse who has been devoted to caring for others for years, and for it to be heavily insinuated that I would be one of the few who would go around vandalizing other’s homes is unacceptable. Mrs. Zappendorf’s statements were spoken in a way that implied a warning to me.”

Following the appointment of an ethics commission, council will appoint someone to replace Zappendorf on the DDA, then hold a second public hearing on the relaxation of stipulations requested by Porter and AMP.

The complaint raises questions about Porter as chairman of the DDA and what he knew about Zappendorf’s alleged lobbying on behalf of his race track and whether or not he should resign as well.


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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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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Mayor Grogan Calls Removal “A Witch Hunt” Councilwoman Smith Says It was Justified

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Mayor James Grogan

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – On May 22, Dawsonville City Council members Jason Power, Angie Smith and Caleb Phillips voted to remove Mayor James Grogan from office for alleged violations of the city charter, basing their decision on an investigation by attorney Abbott Hayes, who charged the city in excess of $6,000 for his work.

The mayor called the investigation a “witch hunt” and supporters labeled it a “political lynching.”

The allegations, as outlined in Hayes’ report, include:

Violation of the city charter by reducing the fee for several rezoning applications without council approval, changing an application for water and sewer from a business rate to a slightly less expensive residential rate without council approval; approving charitable donations to non-profit organizations; charging alcohol to his city-issued credit card and instructing an employee to use the city credit card to purchase alcohol.

Sources close to the city council and the mayor told Fetch Your News that even if the allegations are true, they “do not rise to the level of removal from office.”

During the May 22nd meeting, Mayor Grogan’s attorney Steven Leibel questioned Hayes and elicited the following information:

  • No one other than the mayor was investigated;
  • The application for water and sewer that was re-classified from business to residential was for a building that is less than 400 square feet that was never used for business, but only for storage of material;
  • Donations to non-profit organizations was a practice carried forward from the Joe Lane Cox administration and when the city attorney pointed out it is not allowed under the Georgia Constitution, the practice stopped;
  • The alcohol purchased was not for personal consumption. It was the same “moonshine” produced by the Dawsonville Moonshine Distillery, which is located in the city hall complex. It was purchased as a door prize intended to promote the City of Dawsonville.

The timing of the mayor’s removal raised suspicion among Grogan’s supporters who wondered if council had another motivation. Some of those have asked why council waited so long to investigate? After all, some of the allegations date all the way back to 2013 and were made highly public in 2015.

Fetch Your News wanted to know if the council’s actions were politically motivated so we contacted each of the three who voted to remove the mayor.

Councilwoman Angie Smith

Smith responded to our questions in an email. Phillips said only that he agreed with everything Smith said and Power did not respond at all.

Smith wrote, “We were acting in accordance with the authority given by our charter and it is clear to us that seeking justice is absolutely not a political lynching.”

She added, “Along with the annexations and in light of the difference in fees that were charged for other annexations, and not knowing how it came about, (Caleb Phillips) made a motion for the City Manager to hire Abbott Hayes to investigate who authorized the reduced fees and if there were any other misuse of fees in the city or misuse of city funds…Angie Smith seconded and the vote carried unanimously in favor. As you can see, our motion for an investigation never mentioned Mayor Grogan specifically.”

Asked if three city council members have the authority to override the vote of hundreds of citizens who elected the mayor, Smith said, “While the citizens of the City of Dawsonville did, in fact, elect Mr. Grogan to be Mayor, they did not elect him to violate our city charter and city ordinances. We, as city council members were also elected by the citizens of this city to uphold our charter and ordinances, as well as laws of our county, state, and nation.”

Leibel appealed the council’s action Wednesday in Superior Court of Dawson County and Mayor Grogan was returned to his position pending the outcome of that appeal.


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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Mayor Grogan Appeals Removal from City Council

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Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan has appealed his removal from office by the City Council.

On Monday, Dawsonville City Council voted 3-1, with Councilman Mike Sosebee opposed, to remove the mayor for alleged violations of the city code and charter.

On Wednesday, Grogan’s attorney Steven Leibel filed an appeal in the Superior Court of Dawson County.

Fetch Your News will have more details as they become available.

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City Council Won’t Decide on AMP until June

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – A standing-room-only audience packed Dawsonville City Hall Monday in hopes that — after six months — city council could finally make a decision on the sound, lighting and operating hours variances requested by Atlanta Motorsports Park (AMP). But, after a one-hour public hearing, supporters and opponents left disappointed as council members chose to punt. A decision is not likely until June 5.

Some progress was made, however. Owner Jeremy Porter made several significant concessions to area residents who oppose the variances and the city did conduct a sound study.

Sound engineer Tom Trask presented his findings prior to the start of the public hearing. He said the study showed the track did not exceed the city’s imposed 69 dBa (the terminology refers to a weighted decibel limit on average for a-16 hour period). But it was unclear why the four sound monitors were not placed at the track, but instead were placed at four area residences.

Attorney George Butler argued on behalf of AMP owner Jeremy Porter.

Both sides were given 30 minutes to present their case. George Butler, a highly-animated Dahlonega attorney, took the full 30 minutes to argue on behalf of the owner.

Butler began by withdrawing AMP’s request for unlimited noise on 15 days each year. Now, the track is asking for unlimited noise only on the 4th of July.

Butler pointed out that the county’s Planning Commission had recommended a 98 dBa public address system limit at trackside but the owner is only asking for 80 dBa at 50 feet from the edge of the track.

AMP’s current operating hours are from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. Nov. 1 through March 31 and 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. (or one hour after sunset) from April 1 through Oct. 31. Porter would like to have the hours extended between March 15 and Nov. 15 to 9:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and 10 p.m. on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Retained in the proposal unveiled Monday was the request to build condos or micro-cabins on the property.

Several area residents spoke in opposition to the variations, most complaining about the noise and potential loss of property value. One man said regardless of the sound study, the noise is disruptive from as far away as a mile.


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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City of Dawsonville Votes to Remove Mayor Grogan

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Mayor James Grogan

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The Dawsonville City Council voted 3-1 today, with Councilman Mike Sosebee opposed, to remove Mayor James Grogan from office for violations of the City Charter. Attorney Steve Leibel said his client would appeal the decision and until the appeals process has run its course, Grogan remains the city’s mayor.

“This was not a fair hearing,” Leibel said after the vote was taken. “(Council) violated the Constitution in finding against the Mayor. They did not give him due process and they didn’t give him a full opportunity to present witnesses. Unfortunately this is going to be very expensive for the City of Dawsonville. They are going to have to pay a lot of people a lot of money to fight this thing and it will be fought.”

Fetch Your News will have more details as they become available.

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Council to Decide Mayor’s Fate at 3 p.m. Meeting; Controversial AMP Hearing Scheduled for 7 p.m.

News

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The City of Dawsonville will hold two important meetings Monday. At 3 p.m., the council will conduct an up or down vote on the removal of Mayor James Grogan from office for allegedly violating the City Code and Charter. At 7 p.m. there will be a public hearing on a highly controversial request by Atlanta Motorsports Park to relax lighting, noise and hours of operation restrictions.

Grogan was the subject of a city-wide investigation to decide what, if anything, should be done to ensure city officials are in compliance with the charter. The conclusion was that Mayor Grogan should be removed from office.

At last week’s meeting, Gainesville City Attorney Abbott Hayes, who led the investigation, reported that 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’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.”

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 the 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.

The 7 p.m. public hearing is expected to draw a standing-room-only crowd as council votes on modifications to the current provisions at Atlanta Motorsports Park that include changes to lighting, sound restrictions, hours and addition of condominiums.

A March 13 Planning Commission hearing on the issue drew a packed house, made up mostly of angry citizens who live near the track and say the noise has already destroyed the tranquility and quality of life in the area. Despite community objections, planning commission voted 2-1 (Stan Worley in opposition) to recommend the modifications.

City council tabled the issue so council members could visit AMP and experience the noise levels firsthand.

The land where AMP was built was annexed from Dawson County and county commissioners wrote a letter to city council requsting council reject the changes on behalf of the citizens who live nearby.


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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