FORSYTH COUNTY — An ethics complaint against Forsyth County Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills was dismissed Wednesday afternoon due to lack of evidence.
The complaint, filed by Ann M. Adams, had two parts that stemmed from a May 27 planning board meeting.
The first point contended that Mills was seen mumbling comments, poking fun and venting frustration during the meeting.
“I came here to speak out as a citizen to show Mills’ lack of respect for the process of the planning [board],” Adams told the panel.
The panel of three-out-of-town attorneys — Chuck Gabriel, Heather Stevenson and Amelia Phillips — was shown two videos of the meeting, one from the official county record and the other from Roswell resident Nydia Tisdale.
Tisdale’s video showed Mills sharing a laugh with Commissioner Todd Levent, but the two could not be heard. Since it was unclear what was said, the panel decided that there wasn’t sufficient evidence for a violation.
The second issue involved Mills briefly leaving the meeting to go to the restroom after a public hearing on a rezoning request. When she returned, she gave a previous speaker a business card.
A quorum of the commission is required to be present during the meetings, and the planning board considered taking a recess until Mills returned, but she did so before a vote could be taken. The incident lasted about a minute.
Commissioners attend the meetings to hear public opinion on projects. Since Mills left as the public comments were being closed no violation had occurred, according to County Attorney Ken Jarrard.
“The purpose of them being there is to take away a litigation argument,” Jarrard told the ethics panel. “Once the public hearing is closed … their mission is accomplished, because I think that I have taken that option off the table.”
The panel decided that it may reflect poorly on a commissioner to leave a meeting, but that no violation had occurred. And without any violations, the panel dismissed both parts of the complaint. The hearing was completed in about four and a half hours.
“Coming here with what you’ve heard is shameful,” said Joseph Homans, the attorney representing Mills. “There is not proof of her at all laughing in such a way as to constitute unbecoming conduct.
“There’s not enough here to show any sort of violation of breaching the public trust.”
Reached Thursday, Mills said she was “very happy that justice finally prevailed.”
“I found it to be a very onerous process, frustrating process,” she said. “I’m all for open transparent government, and for [investigating] true ethics violations.
“I was glad that the panel agreed that running to the bathroom and being gone one minute and 28 seconds did not constitute an ethics violation.”
Mills went on to say that the taxpayer was the real loser from the day due to “false claims.”
“At one time yesterday, there were five attorneys sitting in the room that were all charging Forsyth County,” she said. “It’ll be [a] huge [bill], for a bathroom break.”