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Cummings response sends state AG to sidelines

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* Panel questions officials in impeachment case.

* Insurance flap draws attention of FBI.

CUMMING — It appears the state attorney general’s office is no longer looking into an allegation that the city of Cumming may have held an illegal meeting in December.

In a response that may well describe the entire impeachment process and surrounding controversy, Assistant Attorney General Kelly Campanella described in a letter to City Councilman Rupert Sexton, who had requested the probe, “a scenario of dueling factual accounts” as the reason for the office dropping the matter.

Sexton is facing impeachment by his fellow councilmen for allegedly releasing a list showing insurance and financial information of city employees. Sexton has denied doing so.

The next step in the impeachment process is set for 11 a.m. Tuesday, when the city council will hold a specially called meeting to “receive and consider” the report being prepared by a panel charged with looking into the whether Sexton released the documents.

The three-man panel — City Attorney Dana Miles, Steve Page and former Forsyth County Commissioner Patrick Bell — met Jan. 13 to question “potential witnesses” in the matter.

Sexton was invited but said later he was advised by legal counsel not to attend, adding that the gathering was unconstitutional.

After hearing the panel’s findings, the council may decide Tuesday whether to move forward with impeachment. If it chooses to do so, a trial would be set up before the council at a later date.

As for the possible illegal meeting last month, Sexton contended in a Dec. 18 letter to Campanella that Mayor H. Ford Gravitt and Councilmen Quincy Holton, Lewis Ledbetter and John Pugh violated the Open Meetings Act by holding an illegal meeting between a council meeting and a public hearing.

According to Sexton, he passed by an office and heard Gravitt say, “Had it not been for Rupert and Dana [Sexton’s wife], we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

On Christmas Eve, Campanula sent a letter to Miles requesting a response to Sexton’s allegations.

In Miles’ reply he stated that he had interviewed the mayor and three councilmen and that “the facts show that no such meeting occurred.”

“Each of them categorically denied that any such meeting took place during the approximate 10- to 15-minute break,” Miles wrote in the response.

“While each of them did different things during the break, there was no meeting in the Mayor’s office or elsewhere at that time. Thus, there could not be a violation of the Open Meetings Act.”

In her Jan. 14 response to Sexton, Campanella said that Miles’ “assertions are squarely inconsistent with your complaint,” but more details would be needed to pursue the matter.

“Without further information or evidence to bear out claims of an improper meeting, however, the matter appears to amount to a scenario of dueling factual accounts,” she wrote. “As such, this office is not in a position to litigate or otherwise pursue the matter further.”

Campanella said the attorney general’s office wouldn’t be getting involved in any impeachment proceedings, but would investigate any open meetings or open records issues that may surface in the process.