Stockbridge council probe shows mayor violated laws

by: Craig Lucie Updated:

STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. —

An independent investigator hired by the Stockbridge City Council has recommended that the city remove the mayor from office.

Channel 2’s Craig Lucie was there for the special meeting that Mayor Lee Stuart said he wasn’t aware of until the day before Thanksgiving. He said council members never called him to tell him that they were calling the meeting Monday morning and that it had to do with his fate in office.

The city council hired Christopher Balch of The Balch Law Group to be the lead investigator.

Balch said he interviewed 17 witnesses and reviewed more than 2,000 documents before he reached a conclusion that Stuart violated state and federal laws.

“(The council has) only one alternative and that is under the City Charter that he be removed from office for misfeasance and malfeasance of office,” said Balch.

Balch said he found some evidence to support seven violations of the City Charter, state and federal laws.
He said Stuart monitored employees’ emails and worked with a consultant to keep an eye on some of his colleagues.

“What it more likely looks like is he (the consultant) was here as the mayor’s spy. He was trying to uncover evidence of misconduct, financial misdealing and other misdealings with city government,” Balch explained.

The other charges Balch said he found were wide-ranging.

“Charge 2: Creating a hostile work environment relating to their (employees) gender. Charge 3: Failure to comply with duties as done by state law. Charge 4: (he) violated the Ethics Ordinance by obtaining evidence which he normally would not be entitled to if he were a member of the general public,” said Balch.

Balch said charges five through seven pertain to failing to provide a 2013 budget, producing confidential and private information to the media and failing to adequately investigate the background of a consultant.

After Balch’s recommendation, Stuart and council member Mark Alarcon exchanged a few words.

“Point of order!” Alarcon shouted.

“There is an agenda that has been established. There is no public comment on the agenda that has been adopted,” said Alarcon to Stuart when he asked if anyone else in the crowd wanted a copy of the investigation.

Stuart replied, “Would you please? You are so rude.”

Stuart told Lucie the city council has been always been run under the good old boy system which he plans to disrupt.

“This is the continuation of the witch hunt. Let’s investigate the entire leaders, the mayor and council because there are allegations that are false and untrue,” Stuart told Lucie.

Lucie asked him about all of the strong allegations.

“Show me one document. Again that is their opinion. This is politics,” said Stuart.

Stuart said it’s not 2013 yet, and he is working on the city’s budget. He said the budget council members have proposed includes waste and abuse, including a $75,000 proposed dog park that the mayor would like to replace with more after school programs. He said the programs would help cut down on the numbers of gangs that are popping up in Stockbridge.

Stuart said he expects the city council will call another special meeting very soon, and he believes they will vote to remove him. He said if they do, he’ll appeal it and let a federal judge decide if they have evidence to back up Balch’s investigation. Stuart said he thinks this process could drag on for an entire year.