The Dawsonville Ethics Board heard oral arguments from City Councilman Mark French’s attorney Steven Leibel during an informational hearing on Jan. 21 at City Hall and decided to reconvene on Feb. 19 to possibly make a decision on the ethics charges that have been made against French.
French was first brought before the ethics board in December after complaints regarding an email exchange between French and city officials was brought up during a November meeting of the Dawsonville City Council.
Officials alleged that French directed city manager, Bob Bolz, to consult with city attorney, Dana Miles, to answer a legal question posed by Steve Sanvi, a private resident.
According to the complaint made against the councilman, French allegedly failed to disclose that Sanvi is his employer. It alleges that, “[French’s] failure to recuse himself is a violation of this section of the Code of Ethics.”
Three of the nine charges French faced were dismissed at the initial hearing.
During the January hearing, Leibel raised several concerns about the complaint, which had been refiled on Dec. 30 by Councilman Stephen Tolson after Councilman Jason Power resigned in November. Leibel questioned whether the complaint was being issued by Tolson as an individual, or in his capacity as a city council member.
“The question is, is this a complaint through the city or is this an individual complaint? If it’s a city complaint, then it’s illegal because the new complaint was not voted on by the city council,” Leibel said.
Abbott Hayes, a local attorney who will represent the City of Dawsonville in this matter, asked to submit a written response by Feb. 3, which was accepted by the board. Leibel will have until Feb. 7 to submit a rebuttal.
Leibel also urged caution in his oral argument, stating that his client has raised allegations that the complaints against him are directly tied to his political activity in the city. Leibel stated the ethics board should not involve itself in an intergovernmental dispute between councilmembers.
“If this was a person from the outside bringing a complaint against a member of the government, that’s one thing, but when this becomes a playground for people slinging charges against one another you become an arbiter of a political dispute,” said Leibel. “Let the mayor and the council fight it out in a political battle. Let them sling charges against one another. Let them go ahead and make all the hay they wish, and let the people then decide if they want to reelect the individual or not. That’s what politics is for.”