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Ethics complaint against commissioner scrapped

FORSYTH COUNTY — The remaining ethics complaint filed earlier this year against Forsyth County Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills was dismissed after a hearing Tuesday morning.

A panel of three out-of-county attorneys voted unanimously on the issue, which centered on a Castleberry Road parcel that resident Robert Rorke contended that Mills had a financial interest in.

“The heart of the issue here is whether there was a conflict of interest with regard to a piece of property which was based upon a video shot on Feb. 7, 2014, according to Mr. Rorke’s petition,” said Arthur Leach, who acted as chairman of the panel.

“It had to do with whether Ms. Mills, who is involved in a real estate practice, had an interest in a particular piece of property that adjoins a … roadway that was being [widened],” he said.

The panel, which also included attorneys Michael O’Hagan and Samuel Pierce Jr., found that Mills was not tied to the property, and therefore could not have had a financial interest in the vote Feb. 20.

“In order to have a conflict of interest, Commissioner Mills would have had to have a financial interest, or at least a potential financial interest in the property,” Leach said. “We see nothing in the record that changes our thought process that Ms. Mills did not have an interest in that property.”

Leach said that the panel had taken special care to go over Rorke’s complaint, because he was representing himself. Mills had attorney Joseph Homans, who also represented her in a separate ethics complaint, which was dismissed Oct. 1.

The panel first took up Rorke’s complaint in August, but he was unable to attend that meeting due to his work schedule.

“The rules of these proceedings require that we consider evidence, and we fully recognize as a panel that Mr. Rorke is a layperson,” Leach said. “These comments predicate fully on the original petition and the original response.”

According to Rorke there was “unequal protection under the law,” due to an alleged ordinance change in the proceedings.

“When you have an ordinance, in order for the ordinance to be effective and fair across the board, it cannot be changed in the middle of a meeting,” Rorke said. “Two meetings ago, the ordinance was changed. I was specifically told prior to that meeting that no one could talk, all you could do is listen.

“So during that meeting that I couldn’t attend due to a schedule conflict, they decided they were going to ask questions and talk,” he said. “So to me, I was not given fair shrift on the issue of, ‘Well, we should really ask Mr. Rorke some clarification issues.’”