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Ethics complaints question officials' visit to city hall
Commissioner defends talks
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Forsyth County News


A former Forsyth County commission candidate has questioned whether three government officials have violated ethics rules and state laws.

Terry Sweeney filed complaints, dated April 7, with the Forsyth County Board of Ethics against County Commissioners Pete Amos, Patrick Bell and Brian Tam.

In each complaint, Sweeney contends that on Feb. 3 he witnessed the three men “in the same area of Cumming City Hall at the exact same time, date and place.”

Sweeney goes on to assert that the commissioners violated the Georgia Open Meetings Act  because they didn’t  provide public notice or an agenda regarding the gathering.

The complaints show Sweeney attempted through an open records request to obtain video surveillance footage showing the commissioners at city hall that day, but was informed the city’s cameras were not working.

Sweeney did not say in his complaints why the commissioners were at city hall, nor did he indicate whether they took any official action.

Bell said the grievances will not stop him from communicating with city leaders.

“We need to communicate with city leaders,” Bell said. “We need to communicate with chamber officials and school board members, and I’m going to keep doing it.”

He explained that he, Tam, Amos and Commissioner Todd Levent went to city hall that day for separate discussions with Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt about a possible referendum on extending the 1 percent sales tax.

Bell said he couldn’t recall if any of the city council members attended.

He said he saw Sweeney “wandering around” city hall that day and that he came into the building as Amos and Tam were leaving. Levent arrived about 20 minutes after he did.

Bell said no official action was taken during any of the discussions, which he characterized as informal.

“I find it ironic that people in this community have condemned the board of commissioners and the city for not communicating, and the minute we do they file an ethics complaint,” Bell said.

County government spokeswoman Jodi Gardner said the ethics board could review the complaints at its next meeting, which is scheduled for May 19.

The complaint was filed prior to the commission's recent changes to the local ethics ordinance, and as a result will not be subject to any penalties if eventually deemed frivolous.

In 2008, Sweeney ran for the District 5 post on the commission but fell short in the Republican primary.