Georgia Supreme Court hands former Mayor Grogan a decisive win against the City of Dawsonville

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — In a unanimous decision today (Feb. 4), the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled that former Mayor James Grogan does not owe the City of Dawsonville any money and he is eligible to run for elected office in the future.

“All I can say is that I feel completely vindicated,” Grogan said Monday. “I am very pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision.”

Grogan v. City of Dawsonville lawsuit was filed in Spring of 2017 after the city council voted to remove Grogan from office. Grogan sued the city in an attempt to be reinstated. The city argued Grogan’s lawsuit was meritless and the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction over his appeal.

The Superior Court agreed and dismissed his claim. But the state’s highest court did not agree. “We conclude we do have jurisdiction over his appeal. And, we conclude the trial court erred in granting relief to the City on its “money-had-and-received counterclaim.”

The city claimed – and Superior Court also agreed – that Grogan owed the City funds totaling about $25,000. Again the Supreme Court disagreed.

“Of the approximately $25,000 the City claimed Grogan owed, about $10,700 was in salary paid to Grogan. The remaining amount of approximately $11,300 that the City sought to recoup was the value of health, disability, and dental insurance premiums paid for Grogan, a life insurance policy in Grogan’s name, payroll taxes paid on Grogan’s behalf, and amounts paid for certain business expenses. Outside of his salary, there is no indication that Grogan received money from the City. Grogan does not argue, and so we do not address, whether the City could ever recover only for money paid directly to the defendant.”

Until Monday, Grogan said he worried the lower court ruling might make him ineligible to run for elected office in the future.

But the Supreme Court’s decision states, “OCGA 21-2-8 requires a conviction and sentencing for a criminal offense before someone is disqualified from office. Nothing about Grogan’s removal shows that he was charged with, much less convicted of, a criminal offense.”

 

 

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. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. 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 wants to increase pay for mayor and council members 13 months after voting for a decrease in pay

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Mike Eason

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — Just 13 months after the Dawsonville City Council voted to reduce the mayor’s pay from $2,000 to $600 per month all but one council member now wants to increase the pay for the mayor and each council member.

By a vote of 3-1 during last night’s council meeting council approved the second reading of an amendment to the city charter that would nearly double the mayor’s pay to $1,000 per month plus $150 for each city council meeting and another $150 for each additional meeting pre-approved by city council. All that is in addition to approximately $20,000 in insurance benefits the mayor and council now receive.

If approved, the pay raises would not become effective until Jan. 2020.

A third reading and public hearing is set for Feb. 4 and, if approved, each council member also would receive an increase from $500 to $600 per month plus an additional $150 per city council meeting and $150 for an additional meeting per-approved by council.

Councilman Mark French — who was not on the council at the time the mayor’s pay was reduced, — voiced strong opposition. “I would like to state my continued opposition to any increase for the mayor or any member of the city council,” he said.

Mark French

In a phone interview Wednesday, French said when the mayor’s pay was reduced, we were told the reason was the city had just hired – for the first time — a city manager who would take over many of the mayor’s responsibilities.

“But now council is looking to increase the salary and no additional duties have been added,” he said.

Former Mayor James Grogan has said the pay reduction was politically motivated to discourage him from running against current Mayor Mike Eason.

Grogan was removed from office by a vote of city council members who alleged he violated the city charter. He was replaced by Mayor Eason, who served on an interim basis until he defeated Grogan in the special election in March.

Eason said Wednesday, “I don’t know why council decided to reduce the mayor’s pay. I had nothing to do with that. That vote took place on my very first meeting as interim mayor.”

Eason also said to his knowledge nothing has changed with regard to the responsibilities of mayor and city council since the pay reduction was approved.

 

 

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. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. 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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James Grogan’s fight with the City of Dawsonville goes to the Georgia Supreme Court Wednesday

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ATLANTA, Ga. — Oral arguments in the case of Grogan v. City of Dawsonville will begin Wednesday afternoon in the Georgia Supreme Court, 40 Capitol Square in Atlanta.

The Dawsonville City Council voted to remove former Mayor James Grogan from office in May 2017, following a city council-initiated investigation into alleged misuse of city funds.

Grogan lost an appeal in Dawson County Superior Court five months later. He then attempted to win election to his former office but was defeated by current Mayor Mike Eason.

Grogan’s attorney Steven Leibel has asked the Supreme Court to reverse the lower court’s decision.

In a brief to the Supreme Court, Leibel wrote, “Grogan has not only been denied his right of appeal, he also has been penalized tens of thousands of dollars for having exercised that right.”

The City of Dawsonville has spent more than $70,000 in attorney’s fees fighting the appeals.

Oral arguments in Superior Court will begin at approximately 2 p.m. Each side is given 20 minutes to present their argument with the appellant going first.

Georgia Supreme Court welcomes the public to attend oral arguments.

 

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. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. 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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Former Mayor Grogan upbeat despite court ruling

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Former Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan was surprisingly upbeat Wednesday despite the fact that Superior Court Judge C. Andrew Fuller ordered him to pay the city $25,060.88, the salary and benefits he received from the city while he appealed his impeachment.

Grogan said he was disappointed but not surprised by the judge’s ruling and he remained optimistic.

“We have an election coming up Tuesday that can make that go away,” he said.

Grogan is running to regain his seat as mayor in Tuesday’s special election against the man who replaced him, Mayor Mike Eason.

He was voted out of office last May by three city council members who allege he violated the city charter.

He said the reason for his optimism is the feedback he has received from the voters.

“I’ve gone door to door and I haven’t heard a single negative comment,” Grogan said. “I feel like the citizens will do the right thing and return me to office. They have heard all this stuff before, and they know I’ve tried to do the right thing and stay above the fray. I believe they are going to vote me back in office.”

 

 

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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Secrecy surrounds “mishandled funds” complaint

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City Manager Bob Bolz

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – One month after the City of Dawsonville filed a complaint with the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office regarding “mishandled funds” during former Mayor James Grogan’s administration, city officials have kept the details of that complaint a closely guarded secret.

Taxpayers have been kept in the dark regarding how their money was mishandled and how much money is involved.

City Manager Bob Bolz responded to Fetch Your News open records request (ORR) last week in an email that stated: “Because of certain information pertinent to the investigation revealed in the (complaint), that information was deemed confidential by our attorneys.”

The City’s failure to disclose details of the complaint has raised serious questions about the validity of the complaint and especially its timing, coming just weeks before the special election that will decide if Grogan is to regain his seat or be replaced for the next four years by interim Mayor Mike Eason. Advanced voting has begun and Election Day is March 20.

Former Mayor James Grogan

City Council members Angie Smith, Caleb Phillips and Jason Power voted last May to remove Grogan as mayor for alleged violations of the city code and policies. The decision was not popular with voters and may have cost Smith her seat on the Council. She was voted out of office in November.

Grogan has maintained from the beginning that he has done nothing wrong and the complaint of “mishandled funds” is politically motivated.

“It is a politically-motivated witch hunt,” Grogan said. “But I believe the voters will see it for what it is.”

In fact, Grogan doubts there is any investigation. “I believe they filed the complaint just to hurt me. It’s been almost a month since the complaint was filed and nobody from the sheriff’s office has questioned me.”

In making the motion to refer the issue to law enforcement, new City Councilman Stephen Tolson said, “I think in the interest of full transparency it would be a good idea to go ahead and hand over all those documents and any related documents of the prior investigations conducted.”

Yet one month later, the documents have not been turned over to the media or made available to the public. Election Day is Tuesday, March 20 and the voters will finally have a chance to decide who will lead the city forward.

 

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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Mike Eason named Dawsonville’s interim mayor

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Mike Eason is sworn as Dawsonville interim mayor as grandson Caleb looks on.

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Mike Eason, a special agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for 31 years and the state’s first inspector general, was appointed interim mayor of the city of Dawsonville at Monday’s city council meeting.

Eason earned a Bachelor of Science degree in public administration/criminal justice from Brenau University and also served as Cumming’s chief of police from 2005 to 2009.

Eason will replace James Grogan, who was voted out of office by city council for alleged violations of the city charter. He will serve until voters choose the next mayor in a special election. Council approved a resolution to schedule the special election for March 20

Council also held two public hearings on key issues. The first would reduce the mayor’s compensation from $2,000 per month to $600 per month and clarify compensation outside the first regular meeting of the month.

The second would amend sections of the city’s charter to create district posts for council members and make the removal of city officials consistent with state law. Both require a second public hearing.

Council was scheduled to vote on an request by Gold Creek residents to reduce the fee for combined annexation requests but the applicant withdrew the request for the time being.

A bid was awarded to Cumming-based Rakestraw Sanitation for garbage and solid waste collection at a cost of $9.85 per month.

Council unanimously agreed to pay $320 each plus mileage for two newly elected council members to attend mandatory training.

Council also approved changing the time for regular meetings and work sessions in 2018 to 7 p.m. on the first Monday each month.

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City proposes massive pay cut for next mayor

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Former Mayor James Grogan

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – After Dawsonville’s City Council held the first public hearing on slashing the mayor’s pay by 70 percent from $2,000 to $600 a month Monday, former mayor James Grogan accused council members of trying to keep him from running in the March 20 special election.

“It’s a punitive action to keep me from running,” Grogan said Tuesday. “It all revolves around their ongoing effort to discredit me and keep me from wanting to run. I’m disappointed in what is going on with council.”

City council impeached Grogan in May, alleging that he had violated the city charter and policies. Grogan has repeatedly maintained his innocence.

He filed an appeal in Dawson County Superior Court, but Judge C. Andrew Fuller ruled the appeal had been improperly filed. At that point, Grogan chose to discontinue his appeal and announced he would campaign for his old job in the next special election.

City Mgr. Bob Bolz

“My heart is still in serving the citizens of Dawsonville, and I believe, ultimately, it is their decision and not some random judge to decide,” he said at the time. “So, instead of continuing the fight through the legal process and to prevent city council from spending any more of your tax payer funds frivolously on legal fees, I am here to take the high road and say, let’s stop this now. Let’s put this back up to the voters.”

City Manager Bob Bolz says the proposed reduction in pay is not punitive but reflected the new responsibilities of the job.

“When the late Joe Lane Cox was mayor, he also fulfilled the responsibilities of city manager,” Bolz said. “That carried forward into Mayor Grogan’s tenure.”

Now that the city has a full-time city manager, Bolz said, the responsibilities have changed and council felt the pay should change as well.

A second public hearing on the issue is set for Dec. 18.

 

 

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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UPDATE: James Grogan Issues Statement About His Plans to Run for Mayor in 2018

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James Grogan

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – James Grogan announced today that he is giving up his appeal to remain mayor of Dawsonville in order to save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and will, instead, run for mayor in a 2018 special election.

Grogan was voted out of office by City Council members Angie Smith, Caleb Phillips and Jason Power following a report presented to council on May 1 that outlined a number of alleged violations of city code by the mayor. Grogan’s attorney Steven Leibel appealed council’s action, but earlier this month, C. Andrew Fuller, Chief Judge for the Northeast Judicial District ruled the appeal was improperly filed.

Today (Oct. 31), Grogan issued the following statement:

“Obviously I am not pleased with the decision of the judge, however, it is very important to note the ruling did not side with the city council’s decision or their action. It was simply a technicality on a complicated issue that has never happened before in the state of Georgia. My heart is still in serving the citizens of Dawsonville and I believe ultimately it is their decision and not some random judge to decide.

“So instead of continuing the fight through the legal process and to prevent city council from spending any more of your tax payer funds frivolously on legal fees, I’m here to take the high road and say, let’s stop this now. Let’s put this back up to the voters.

“This morning I have stopped my appeal and I am announcing that I will rerun for Mayor in the special election in March and to serve you with all my heart. I have been serving you for many years and we have seen many great things happen in this city under my leadership. So, instead of three power hungry city council members and a random judge deciding the direction our city should take, and whether I should continue to serve you, I have decided to put the decision back where it belongs, with the citizens of Dawsonville.

“You and only you will decide whether I should be allowed to continue to be your leader. So please vote for James Grogan for Mayor in 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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