A political foundation that has stood for more than 40 years is starting to crack.
On Tuesday, the Cumming City Council voted to move forward with impeachment of councilmember Rupert Sexton, who has been on the board since 1971, but Sexton isn‘t going to go down without a fight.
Sexton is accused of releasing a list of health and insurance information related to city employees that subsequently appeared on social media. He has denied doing so.
Following a special called meeting on Tuesday, City Attorney Dana Miles said that one reason for the possible impeachment was a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [HIPPA.]
“I believe that the information released is a potential violation, and again we haven’t done an investigation or a trial so I can’t prejudge the case,” Miles said. “I believe that it is a potential violation of both the federal law, HIPPA, as well as state law, items that are protected specifically from disclosure by the open meetings and open records act of the state of Georgia.”
Sexton said that as a retired insurance agent of 26 years, he knew what information could be released and that he didn’t violate the federal law. He also denies ever making the list public in the first place.
“They accused me of putting a list out of city employees, only their hire dates, the type of insurance plan they got and a premium,” he said. “Dana Miles said that I violated the HIPPA law. All it does is cover that, unless you sign anything, people can’t get medical records, and a premium is not a medical record.
“I didn’t put out any list. I met with the mayor back in August, and if the list hadn’t been legal, Phil Higgins, the Human Resources [Director,] wouldn’t give it to me.”
The list posted on social media shows that Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt’s girlfriend is receiving city health insurance. Sexton said she was not an employee, though City Manager Gerald Blackburn had previously said she worked part time for the city.
Sexton said that he believes appointing Miles, who also receives city health insurance, to the impeachment investigatory panel is a conflict of interest. The panel named Tuesday to investigate the issue includes Miles, Steve Page and Patrick Bell.
“Patrick Bell, I know him. Steve Page, the name is familiar but I don’t know anything about him,” Sexton said. “My opinion is that Dana Miles being on the panel and investigating, and he’s getting the same benefits … I think it’s a conflict of interest.”
Though he said he did not release the list, Sexton has asked for “whistleblower protections” throughout the impeachment process.
“That’s what I’d been advised to do,” Sexton said. “Because at the bottom line, that’s what it amounts to.”
At the end of the meeting Tuesday, Gravitt directed that all questions should go through Miles, and said as mayor he needed to be neutral.
“I have nothing until after the investigation, and we’ll wait until that’s done and we’ll see who’s right about this,” he said. “I just feel like that I got to be neutral about this as mayor, and I’ll be neutral until all this investigation is done, and we’ll see what comes out of it and what the council wants to do.”
Miles and Councilmen Lewis Ledbetter and Ralph Perry were unable to be reached for comment on Wednesday. Higgins and Councilmen Quincy Hilton and John Pugh did not have a comment.