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Ethics complaint against sheriff dropped
Additional research sways resident who filed it
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Forsyth County News

CUMMING — An ethics complaint against Forsyth County Sheriff Duane Piper has been dropped.

Resident Robert Rorke, who filed the complaint in early June, contacted the clerk for Forsyth County’s ethics panel via email late last week and stated that he believes the complaint was unwarranted.

“I therefore withdraw the June 2, 2014 ethics complaint in its entirety,” Rorke wrote in his email.

Forsyth’s ethics board is a pool of about a dozen out-of-county attorneys, who are selected at random when a complaint is filed or an advisory opinion sought. It has 60 days from the day a complaint is filed to make a decision.

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

Rorke included a campaign promotion for commission candidate David Hole in which the two men were shown shaking hands in front of a sheriff’s patrol car.

Hole ultimately lost his bid for Distict 3 Forsyth County commissioner to incumbent Todd Levent during the May 20 Republican primary election.

In the complaint, Rorke maintained that Piper violated the Hatch Act by acting in his official capacity for the endorsement.

However, Piper, in a written response to the complaint, countered that the act specifically allows an elected official to endorse candidates.

“Before endorsing these candidates, Sheriff Piper sought legal counsel regarding his ability, as sheriff, to endorse other political candidates and determined that his endorsement would not violate any laws,” Piper’s response stated. It specifically noted the law applies to employees, not individuals holding elected office.

On Monday, Piper said he was happy to see Rorke drop the complaint, which he called “interesting and confusing.” 

“I’m pleased that he did additional research and came to the conclusion that the ethics complaint that he filed was unwarranted,” Piper said. “But I wish he had done this additional research before an ethics complaint was filed.”

In his response to the complaint, Piper stated he felt he had provided evidence that the Hatch Act allows him to endorse candidates.

“I think [Rorke] had gotten some bad information on what the Hatch Act said, and I think we illustrated that pretty well in our response that the Hatch Act actually defends my ability to endorse candidates as sheriff, it doesn’t take that away.”

Messages left for Rorke seeking additional comment on the matter were not returned.

Piper, who was elected to the office in November 2012, said this was the first ethics complaint ever filed against him.

“And it was gratifying that it got withdrawn,” he said.