At the advice of the city attorney, Tony Powell, the City of Snellville has filed a lawsuit against ethics watchdog George Anderson.
Anderson filed numerous ethics complaints against Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts earlier this year, alleging that Witts had violated his oath of office when he was sworn in. His violation, according to Anderson, was failing to declare that he owed back taxes.
When George Anderson heard that the suit had been filed, he responded in a Dec. 4 email by saying the council was "wasting taxpayer funds during a down economy," and that they should be "ashamed."
Anderson's Ethics in Government group was recently dissolved, with Anderson citing health issues as the reason for his quasi-retirement.
Powell, along with councilmembers Dave Emanuel and Bobby Howard, believe that Anderson's claims are frivolous. Emanuel stated during an August council meeting that Anderson is using the claim of an ethics violation as a platform for political speech.
Witts has explained that he does owe the tax, but is paying it back and never hid that fact.
He said in a previous interview with Snellville Patch that he owes for taking a disbursement of 401K funds in 2007 after his wife was laid off. He said the money "I borrowed from myself" helped prevent him from laying off employees and kept his business (Georgia Property Restoration) afloat.
"[Despite Anderson's charges] I'd still make that decision. I'd still do it. I'd still take care of the families [of his employees]. I'd still take care of my family," said Witts, who said he has disclosed his debt in an open city council meeting. "I have nothing to hide."
As such, the council voted during that meeting to file a declatory judgment against Anderson. Council members Dave Emanuel, Bobby Howard, Tom Witts and Diane Krause voted in favor, while Mayor Kelly Kautz and councilman Mike Sabbagh voted against. Kautz does not believe that it is the taxpayer’s responsibility to foot the bill for an ethics investigation against a council member.
Gov. Nathan Deal filed suit against George Anderson back in September, asking that Anderson pay for Deal's attorney's fees brought on by a "unsubstantiated, frivolous" lawsuit, according to legal documents.
That did not go over in the courts, which did not require Anderson to pay the more than $10,000 legal fees, according to Atlanta Unfiltered.
More than anything, though, Deal's legal team wanted an apology from Anderson.
“My language was strong and I sincerely, sincerely apologize,” he told Deal, according to Atlanta Unfiltered.
Snellville Patch will bring you more information as it becomes available.