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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Cost to Impeach Mayor Grogan Skyrockets Taxpayers Now on the Hook for $73,000

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Mayor James Grogan

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Just three months into the process, the cost to taxpayers for Dawsonville City Council’s effort to impeach Mayor James Grogan is skyrocketing. According to city documents obtained by Fetch Your News, the cost has already topped $73,000.

According to those documents, City Attorney Dana Miles’ law firm of Miles, Hansford and Tallant has billed the city a total of $31,296.63 so far.

The law firm of Hulsey, Oliver and Mahar has billed a total of $10,929.12 for Ab Hayes to serve as the independent third party to investigate the actions of the mayor and prepare a report based upon the investigation of the mayor.

The law firm of Ragsdale, Beals, Seigler, Patterson and Gray billed $1,420 for fees to the City Court Judge for handling matters prior to and in conjunction with the hearing for removal of the mayor and the recently hired law firm of Webb and Powell has thus far billed $3,674.

Grogan has said all along that he did nothing wrong and has filed an appeal. As an elected official, he is entitled to legal representation at city expense. Attorney Steven Leibel represents the mayor and thus far, he has billed the city approximately $26,000, which brings the cost to Dawsonville taxpayers to just over $73,000.

“The mayor said at the last meeting this would be very expensive for taxpayers and he suggested finding a resolution short of impeachment,” Leibel said. “Unfortunately the taxpayers now have to shoulder the legal expenses because they didn’t resolve this unconscionable impeachment effort.”

City Council has accused Grogan of violations of city code and policies including lowering rezoning fees for at least three 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.

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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Councilwoman Angie Smith is Determined to Preserve the Heritage of the City of Dawsonville

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Councilwoman Angie Smith

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – A lifelong resident of Dawson County where her family has lived for four generations, Dawsonville City Councilwoman Angie Smith welcomes the growth that is headed up the 400 corridor. But she is determined to preserve the town’s historic homes and its heritage.

Smith, who is in her first full term on city council, will run for reelection in November.

“If there is a topic near and dear to me, it is the history of this town, revitalization and saving the historic homes we still have left,” Smith said Thursday.

Smith graduated from Dawson County High School then earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in music education from then North Georgia College and State University. After graduation, she accepted a position at Blacks Mill Elementary where she taught music and coached the girls’ basketball team.

There are some ongoing projects – like the new city park — she would like to see continued in a second term.

“The new park can be a great addition, not just to the city but the whole community,” she said.

“I’ve said before if we can complete the downtown revitalization, it will be the single most positive change in my lifetime inside the city limits.”

Another important project Smith wants to see through is the streetscape.

“The sidewalk project that started under the late Mayor Cox has continued under this mayor and city council and it is fabulous. It does a lot to connect the people with the businesses. We still have a long way to go but we have made good progress.”

Smith is married to Scott Smith. The couple has two children, Ethan, age 13, an 8th grader at Dawson County Junior High, and Addison, 9, a 4th grader at Robinson Elementary School.

In addition to her duties on city council, Smith is a part-time employee of her family’s real estate management company and is also the Minister of Music at her church.

 

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Requests for Zoning Modifications on the Agenda When City Council Meets Monday

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. –- When the Dawsonville City Council meets Monday at 6 p.m., there will be a public hearing and second reading of an ordinance that, if adopted, would set the application fee for annexations and change the fees for zonings.

Council is also expected to vote on two requests by Len Reeves for modification of existing zoning conditions on property he owns at 280 Maple Street South which. The property is currently zoned Residential Multi-Family (R-6) with stipulations.

Council will also decide on a replacement for Seanie Zappendorf on the Downtown Development Authority.

In other business, council will vote on acceptance of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) and establishing a job description and appointment of a Deputy City Clerk.

Council will also decide on hiring attorney Tony Powell with the firm of Webb, Tanner and Powell to represent the city council as respondent in Certiorari in the case of Grogan v. City of Dawsonville.

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 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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