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
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.
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