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Cumming asks Georgia's attorney general to reconsider review
city

Previous articles

 

* State AG declines to look into case.

 

* City of Cumming called before federal grand jury.

 

* Cumming seeks state AG’s review of impeachment case.

 

* Cumming’s response sends state AG to sidelines.

 

* Panel questions officials in impeachment case.

 

* Insurance flap draws attention of FBI.

 

 

 

 

Timeline

 

The following is a timeline of the city of Cumming’s impeachment and insurance controversy:

 

Dec 19 — The Forsyth County News reports that Cumming Councilman Rupert Sexton could be facing impeachment after a list of city employees’ insurance information appeared on social media. The list purportedly shows that City Attorney Dana Miles and Mayor H. Ford Gravitt’s girlfriend, Angie Mullinax, are receiving insurance.

 

Dec. 22 — At a special called meeting, the city council votes 4-1, with Sexton opposed, to move forward with the impeachment process. It appoints an investigatory panel consisting of City Attorney Dana Miles, Steve Page and former Forsyth County Commissioner Patrick Bell.

 

Dec. 24 — Georgia Assistant Attorney General Kelly Campanella sends a letter to Miles asking him to respond to allegations from Sexton that an illegal city meeting had occurred Dec. 16.

 

Jan. 8 — City Administrator Gerald Blackburn confirms that he and Phil Higgins, the city’s personnel director, and had been interviewed by an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding the insurance situation of Miles and Mullinax.

 

Jan. 13 — At a meeting of the investigatory panel, Gravitt, Higgins and Councilmen Ralph Perry and Lewis Ledbetter are questioned. Higgins said he provided the insurance list to Sexton. The mayor and councilmen said they received a copy, but hadn’t distributed it.

 

Jan. 18 — In a letter to Sexton, Campanella said the attorney general’s office would no longer be looking into the possible meeting violation, due to a “a scenario of dueling factual accounts” between Sexton and Miles, who reported that an illegal meeting never happened.

 

Jan. 20 — With protests going on outside City Hall, the investigatory panel presents its findings to the Cumming City Council. The panel’s recommendation is to ask the Attorney General’s office to weigh in on the city’s impeachment process and whether the released information was in violation of the law.

 

Jan. 22 — The FCN reports that a federal grand jury has issued three subpoenas asking for information about Miles, Mullinax and Gravitt to Higgins, who was called to testify before the panel on Feb. 10 in Atlanta.

 

 Feb. 9 — In a letter to City Attorney Dana Miles, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens states his office is “unable to provide the requested review” sought by Miles and the other two members of the panel charged with exploring any possible wrongdoing by Councilman Rupert Sexton.

 

-- Kelly Whitmire

CUMMING — The city of Cumming has asked the Georgia Attorney General’s Office to reconsider weighing in on two matters concerning the possible impeachment of a longtime councilman.

During a meeting last week, City Attorney Dana Miles announced that Cumming was awaiting a response to its reply on the issues Attorney General Sam Olens had earlier in the month.

The three-man panel charged by the city with investigating allegations of wrongdoing by Rupert Sexton had previously sought the opinion of Olens’ office on whether it was illegal to release employees’ insurance information. The panel, which included Miles, also wanted him to review Cumming’s impeachment process.

In his response, Olens wrote that he was “unable to provide the requested review” due to a lack of knowledge of specific facts and local laws, as well as an ongoing federal investigation into the city’s insurance situation.

Miles countered that Cumming, like many municipal governments, follows Roberts Rules of Order, or system of meeting procedures, so local laws are not the issue.

“[And] as to the need to be familiar with local laws, with this I would also respectfully disagree. The issue instead is the sufficiency of the adopted rules — Roberts Rules of Order — when it comes to due process in the impeachment process,” Miles said.

“Because these rules are adopted by numerous local governments, this is not so much a matter of ‘local laws,’ but of rules adopted by reference across the state.”

In reference to the lack of information Olens cited with both issues, Miles wrote that he would be able to provide any details required.

Miles also contended that the federal investigation did not address who had released the insurance information, which appeared on social media in mid-December.

Mayor H. Ford Gravitt has accused Sexton, alongside whom he has served since 1971, of releasing the information in retaliation for not being able to secure lifetime city health benefits for his wife and the other councilmen’s spouses.

The city’s position is that the list should not have been released. Sexton has denied leaking it, but maintains the information was a matter of public record and not as personal as others have portrayed it.

“As to the issue of the ‘federal investigation’ referenced in your letter, your investigation understanding of media reports is simply incorrect,” Miles wrote. “To my knowledge there is no federal investigation as to whether the disclosure of information by a member of the city of Cumming City Council violated the Georgia Open Records Act.

“Indeed, I cannot imagine why any federal investigation would concern itself with issues related to state statutes related to record production.”

Miles ended the letter with a request for Olens to reconsider, noting the issues could have “far-reaching impact for the application of state law to local government institutions.”

Last month, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, issued three subpoenas to the city seeking information by Feb. 10 on Gravitt, his longtime girlfriend Angie Mullinax and Miles.

As the impeachment probe against Sexton has centered on the list of city employees’ personal insurance and financial information, the subpoenas requested several insurance-related documents, among other items.

The list reportedly showed that Miles, who is not an employee, and Mullinax, whose employment is disputed, receive insurance coverage through the city.

For his part, Miles has said his official role as city attorney qualifies him for coverage under the Georgia Municipal Association, or GMA.

Before being asked to look into the impeachment/insurance matter, Olens was already locked in an ongoing legal battle with Cumming over an April 2012 open meetings case.

In that matter, a senior Superior Court judge ordered the mayor and city to pay $12,000 in penalties plus attorney fees for violating the Georgia Open Meetings Act. The city has appealed that ruling.

Also Tuesday night, the council voted to hire two law firms to represent the city when Miles, Hansford and Tallant could not provide counsel.

The firm of Cruser and Mitchell was chosen to represent the city on an as-needed basis and is handling the city’s ongoing federal investigation.

Robert Jackson Wilson of the law firm Webb, Tanner, Powell and Wilson of Lawrenceville was selected to represent the Cumming Zoning Board of Appeals, which due to state law cannot have the same attorney as the city.