Judge Dismisses Mayor James Grogan’s Appeal

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Mayor James Grogan

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Judge C. Andrew Fuller today (Monday, Oct. 9) dismissed James Grogan’s appeal to remain as mayor of Dawsonville.

Fuller, the Chief Judge for the Northeast Judicial District, ruled the appeal was improperly filed.

When reached for comment Grogan was recovering from eye surgery and said he had not heard of the judge’s decision yet.

Grogan’s attorney Steven Leibel was not available for comment.

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

 

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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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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Cost Continues to Mount as City Hires Another Attorney to Pursue Impeachment of Mayor

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Mayor James Grogan

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The effort to impeach Mayor James Grogan took center stage at Monday’s Dawsonville City Council meeting as council voted to hire Gwinnett County attorney Tony Powell to push for impeachment.

Prior to that vote, Councilman Mike Sosebee made a motion to abandon the impeachment effort, but it died for lack of a second.

Grogan’s attorney Steven Leibel attended the meeting, but did not speak. After the meeting, however, he said, “It’s unfortunate. This is going to cost taxpayers a lot of money. It could take up to a year and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The city paid attorney Abbott Hayes approximately $6,000 to conduct the investigation that led to the impeachment effort. Powell said his fee is $260 an hour.

In May, council voted to impeach Grogan 3-1, with Sosebee opposed. However, he remains in office, pending an appeal.

Council members have accused the mayor of — among other things — charging the city for attending meetings that were not pre-approved by the council and changing an application fee for water and sewer from a business rate to a slightly less expensive residential rate without council approval.

In other business, council tabled a request to amend existing zoning stipulations on property owned by Len Reeves at 280 Maple Street South, appointed Beverly Bannister deputy city clerk and approved an annexation ordinance for the purpose of setting an application fee for annexations and changing fees for zonings.

Council also appointed Tim Costley, Misty Moore and Kevin Hammond to serve on the Downtown Development Authority.

The mayor announced that the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada has awarded Bonnie Warne and the City of Dawsonville the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Finance Reporting. The award is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting. Its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management.

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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County Tax Assessor is Featured Speaker at Community Connections Workshop

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County residents gather for Community Connections Workshop at the Senior Center Thursday.

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County Tax Assessor Kurt Tangel was the featured speaker at Thursday’s Community Connections Workshop which was held at the Senior Center. Tangel, who has worked for the county the past 12 years, explained the difference in his responsibilities and those of the Tax Commissioner.

“The Tax Commissioner is the one who sends out the bills and collects the taxes,” Tangel said. “The Tax Assessor applies the value to those properties.”

Tax Assessor Kurt Tangel

The Tax Assessor does not work directly for the Board of Commissioners, but is directly responsible to the Board of Assessors, five individuals appointed by the commissioners.

This year the Board of Assessors contracted with a private company to perform a county-wide property revaluation which started in June.  The company has completed about 15 percent of the data collection and is expected to complete the residential evaluation by the end of next year. Commercial and industrial revaluation won’t be complete until 2019.

Those conducting the revaluation will be in clearly-marked county vehicles to identify themselves. They are permitted to come onto the homeowner’s property, but not inside the home. If the homeowner is not home, they are supposed to leave a door hanger to let the property owner know they have been there.

“We assess the value of property based on what we know the square footage of that home to be,” Tangel said.

Tangel encourages property owners to view their assessment on the Tax Assessor’s web page and if the information is incorrect, to contact his office at any time.

Asked if the current revaluation is expected to produce any major corrections, Tangel said, “There could be some changes based on increased desirability or scarcity, but I don’t anticipate any major corrections.”

Mayor James Grogan

Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan gave a brief review of city projects. “There’s a lot of good things going on,” he said. “We’re completing a sidewalk project that will go totally around the city that should be finished by the end of the year and we’re still working on the park. We sent the paperwork to the EPD and when that comes back, well put it out for construction bids. We hope to have dirt moving on that by the end of the year.”

Grogan also pointed out there is a lot of homebuilding going on in the city. He estimated that 300-400 new homes will be built in the next 12 months.

County Manager David Headley told attendees that county representatives had met with Georgia Department of Transportation Officials earlier in the day to discuss transportation issues in the county.

County Mgr. David Headley

“We discussed the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) in our district,” Headley said. “These are federally-funded dollars that go to the state to do projects such as bridges. We talked about a truck bypass around the city. They’re looking at that, collecting data and looking at a possible alignment. We also talked about some of the roundabout projects we have going on. We  talked about the CFI (continuous flow intersection). The state is looking at spending a lot of money here for obvious reasons. They don’t just do these things because they have a lot of money to spend and want to build them. They anticipate a lot of growth here.”

 

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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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James Grogan Returns as Dawsonville Mayor Monday

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – James Grogan will return to the office of Mayor of the City of Dawsonville effective immediately, pending an appeal in the Superior Court of Dawson County.

City Council voted 3-1 last Monday, with Councilman Mike Sosebee opposed, to impeach Grogan for alleged violations of the city code. But Grogan’s attorney Steven Leibel filed the appeal on Wednesday and said that Grogan would return to his duties as mayor in time for Monday’s 5 p.m. work session.

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

Grogan has served as mayor since 2010. He was reelected in 2015. His current term is schedued to end in 2019.


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 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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