Council Seeks Ethics Investigation

In the January 9 council meeting, some city leaders are seeking an investigation into the appearance of Councilman Mike Sabbagh before another city council.

Snelville city seal (Credit: City of Snellville)
Snelville city seal (Credit: City of Snellville)

(Editor's Note: This article was originally published January 09, 2012.)

In October, Councilman Mike Sabbagh stood before the Marietta City Council in solidarity with an embattled real estate investor.

The city wanted Waleed "Lee" Jaraysi to tear down his wedding hall, after officials discovered that it was 24,000 square feet instead of the permitted 8,000 square feet.

And, now the Snellville City Council is poised to vote at its Jan. 9 meeting on a resolution to open an investigation into Sabbagh's appearance. At the Marietta meeting, Sabbagh asked the city to change its mind regarding Jaraysi's so-called "eyesore."

Sabbagh's Marietta Appearance

"If it gets demolished, it is not good for you, the citizens or Mr. Jaraysi, because remember the land is still his, and he may re-erect another building, and it may be at the same stage one more time that you all may end up saying demolish that, too," said Sabbagh at the Marietta City Council meeting.

He added that his friend Jaraysi also had the funds to finish the building, but that time was a factor. And, that Jaraysi had not stopped paying taxes on the site, to his knowledge.

Sabbagh also mentioned that he was a professor at Marietta's Southern Polytechnic State University. In addition, he said that he did not like the national turn the case had taken, prompting the attention of Washington, D.C.-based American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

"I bet you a dime to a dollar if this goes on the Al Jazeera community is going to find out about this, and I'm not going to go into anymore about that," Sabbagh said.

At the end of Sabbagh's comments, Marietta Councilman James King said that Sabbagh had promised to put the needed funds for construction of the facility into an escrow account and to make it available. At the time, Sabbagh had not yet done that.

Snellville Reacts

Immediately following Sabbagh's appearance, some Snellville citizens began questioning the councilman's remarks, including those that he was a professor at a local college.

Asked in October, Sabbagh told Patch that he was an adjunct professor.

Still, some Snellville Council members believe Sabbagh violated the city's conflicts of interest and ethics policies during his appearance. And, that is the reason for the request for an investigation.

Snellville city Councilman Dave Emanuel would not comment regarding the specific concerns that prompted the request.

"As you know, confidentiality, integrity and fairness are (or should be) the guiding considerations in the handling of investigations of any type," he said in a recent email response. "These considerations are especially important prior to the conclusion of any investigation.

"It is my intention to do everything possible to assure that all actions of the City Council are handled with the utmost of integrity, and fairness.

"Consequently, in fulfilling my fiduciary responsibility of serving the best interests of our citizens, I believe it is inappropriate to comment on the investigation into councilman Sabbagh."

Councilman Bobby Howard, who plans to bring the agenda item before council on Monday, did not return an email or telephone message.

If the resolution is passed, the council would compensate Judge Mark Layng for the investigation with the normal fee paid to the city's attorney. The judge would then provide a report of his findings and any recommendations for sanctions or penalties.

Sabbagh would also have a chance to defend himself against the findings, if warranted.

Reached last week, Sabbagh said that any investigation conducted by the city should not be political in nature, but based on rules and regulations.

"I continue to believe in an honest an open government, where every elected official is accountable to his or her constituencies," he said. "Any investigation should be consistent with the city code and charter and based on the rule of law; not politics.

"I have always served the citizens and the city with honor and dignity and do intend to continue serving this great city now and through this process."

Darla Dixon January 09, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Snellville Native, thanks first of all, thanks for using your real name. (Sarcasm) Beating a speeding ticket just because your brother is a cop is wrong/cop brother acting on your behalf would be illegal...and not ethical. Just because someone may get away with something sometime doesn't mean it's okay. But I've said my piece. I won't discuss further if you aren't able to use your name. I wonder if you have viewed the actual video from the Marietta City Council meeting. I have. Several times.
Snellville Native January 09, 2012 at 11:32 PM
I would rather not use my real name because I don't want it to conflict with my job as a writer. I wish I could use it. I was born and raised in Snellville during the boom. And as I stated earlier I did not intend to be rude at all. I just think there is a POSSIBILITY that this story is being made bigger than it is because of the reaction from Marietta. Perhaps a stronger message would be to do nothing and stand by our MPT. If he is forced out, Snellville would look like the little brother that got bossed around by the older, more historical, established city of Marietta. I certainly respect your opinion. I guess my only worry is the same as the accused and thats the idea that this is politically motivated, which would be just as wrong.
Grant January 10, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Snellville Native writes "If he is forced out, Snellville would look like the little brother that got bossed around by the older, more historical, established city of Marietta." I completely disagree.Marietta has little to do with it . It would actually appear that The City of Snellville is holding its elected officials responsible for their actions and abiding by the City's charter, something the current mayor could take a lesson on as well .
nanajones January 10, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Wow Snellville pulled out a new low...I'm sad that political bullying has got u good Snellville. Darla dixons comments about this being about him only trying to help a friend seems a bit outlandish...I know of this Marietta case well, and the impact it has had on the Arab American community...he made those statement after seeing the negative prèss and told the council what he thought of it...is that wrong??? Really? I hope that my city councilman would be strong enough to call out foul when he thinks he sees it...I don't care where he finds it. Anyways how petty...seems to me Snellville has some bigger problems to worry about.
Darla Dixon January 10, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Yes we elect representatives to go elsewhere and represent us. But we did not elect anyone on the Snellville city council to go to other cities in Georgia. That is not their job, that is not their assignment. Did the citizens of Snellville ask Mr. Sabbagh to go to Marietta? No we did not. If he wanted to go to Marietta and speak on behalf of his friend as "Mr. Sabbagh of Snellville Ga," that would be different. No, he went to Marietta, presented himself to the Marietta mayor and council body as a Snellville city council member, wearing his official City of Snellville namebadge. Now, there are some people the City of Snellville has specifically HIRED to go outside Snellville to promote Snellville -- our Economic Development Manager is one of them. However to do that is not one of Mr. Sabbagh's duties, and even if it was, he did not represent Snellville well. He represented Snellville as a place that butts its nose into other cities' business. I was sorry to see at last night's council meeting that Mrs. Rita Sabbagh thinks that people have accused her husband of being in Al Qaida. I have never seen anyone do this. Mr. Sabbagh invoked the Al Jazeera name, saying that if Al Jazeera heard about the zoning case, the city of Marietta wouldn't like that very much. Many people saw this as a threat. However, to my knowledge nobody thinks, or has accused, Mr. Sabbagh of being part of Al Qaida. That is just ludicrous.


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