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Complaint against commissioner dies

Local ethics panel cites insufficient evidence

POSTED: August 8, 2014 12:02 a.m.
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CUMMING — An ethics complaint filed earlier this summer against a Forsyth County commissioner won’t move forward in the hearing process.

During a meeting Wednesday afternoon, the local ethics board determined insufficient evidence had been presented in the matter involving District 1 Commissioner Pete Amos.

The panel is a pool of about a dozen out-of-county attorneys who are selected at random to serve in groups of three when a complaint is filed or an advisory opinion sought.

On Wednesday, the attorneys — Neal Childers, Albert Norton Jr. and Edwin Saginar — spent nearly two hours discussing the June 16 complaint lodged by resident Robert Rorke and the response from Amos, who also chairs the commission. Neither Amos nor Rorke addressed the board.

In his complaint, Rorke contended Amos had violated his oath of office, specifically in his vote Feb. 20 to approve the project to widen Castleberry Road.

About six weeks after that vote, according to Rorke, a zoning request was made regarding one of Amos’ properties within three miles from the affected stretch of Castleberry.

“Mr. Amos should have removed himself from any discussion regarding the sale/zoning and other necessary official activities surrounding the pending transaction,” the complaint stated, pointing to Amos’ actions as latent intimidation. “This is undue influence of his position and he does not have the best interest of the county in mind.”

In Amos’ response, it is noted that the Castleberry project began with a 1-cent sales tax program in 2002, long before he was elected to the commission. Land was purchased for the road project by 2009, also before Amos took office.

Amos, in the response, asked that the complaint be dismissed since it “fails to provide specific substantiated evidence from a credible source to support a reasonable belief that a violation of the Forsyth County Code of Ethics occurred.”

Ultimately, the attorneys agreed Wednesday.

“The motion was to find that, following the investigatory review … that there has not been specific, substantiated evidence from a credible source – although I don’t think the motion was made based on credibility – to support a reasonable belief that there has been a violation of the ordinance,” Childers said.

Norton and Sagimar agreed, although the latter first expressed his opinion that residents such as Rorke shouldn’t necessarily be held to the same high standard in presenting evidence to substantiate complaints as attorneys in court cases.

“My concern here is we have a citizen who is concerned,” Sagimar said. “He sees something that doesn’t look right to him for whatever motivation. He keeps up with what goes on here, and that’s a good thing because government can be tyrannical and we don’t want it to be that way on any level.

“So now the question comes up — how much duty is there upon this individual to conduct an investigation to produce enough information before what amounts to a screening process?

“To me, the question is what is imposed upon Mr. Rorke when he brings this. Do we expect the equivalent of an indictment with particularity or a complaint that would be filed by a member of the bar that’s been doing it for 20 years? Or do we expect to have someone to say, ‘This doesn’t smell right … isn’t that enough for y’all to make an inquiry?’”

Rorke has filed a similar complaint against District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills regarding her work in real estate as the possible agent tied to a parcel on Castleberry Road. A hearing is scheduled on that matter Aug. 14.

Last month, Rorke withdrew a complaint he had filed against Forsyth County Sheriff Duane Piper after doing additional research.

Rorke had initially contended that Piper acted in his official capacity and used county assets while endorsing candidates for state Senate and county commission.

 

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