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Contentious Watchdog Head Announces Complaints Against Witts

Snellville Councilman Tom Witts, supporters, walked out of a Friday press conference before it was finished.

The executive director of a Georgia watchdog group announced his intentions to file ethics complaints against two Snellville officials Friday afternoon.

But less than 10 minutes into a press conference in a front hallway at City Hall, Ethics in Government Group head George Anderson lost most of the audience. A group of more than a dozen supporters of Councilman Tom Witts, and Witts himself, walked out the front door, saying there are no merits to Anderson’s claims.

After they left, only a couple of media people and three or four others remained as Anderson further claimed he had evidence Witts and Snellville's Chief Municipal Court Judge Mark Layng violated a handful of ethics codes.

Anderson says he is asking for investigations into alleged violations, mostly centered around Witts owing back state taxes, an alleged conflict of interest due to his association with Layng, and disclosure of campaign contributions.

Anderson says he has already filed complaints with the Governor's Office and the City of Snellville, and plans to file complaints with the Campaign Finance Commission and Judicial Qualifications Committee.

Among his complaints, Anderson alleges that Witts, also Snellville's mayor pro tem, violated his oath of office in 2009 by witholding information that he owed $28,000 in back state taxes.

“You owe $28,000 and in your oath of office, it states that you are not the holder of any unaccountable funds due to the state,” Anderson said. “You knew at the time when you took that oath of office that it was a falsehood.”

, including penalties and interest. He said 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."

Anderson believes Layng, who is Witts' attorney and co-owns the Tucker building that houses Witts' business, was unethical for swearing Witts into office. It was a conflict of interest due to the relationship, he charges. Layng was not present Friday.

Friday's press conference was contentious and included some heated exchanges between Anderson and many in the crowd who are Witts supporters, which included State Rep. Brett Harrell and Councilman Dave Emanuel. Anderson took shots at the Governor and the State Legislature as a whole, and called a woman at the press conference who referred to herself as a community activist a "community pest."

As the group left, comments like “This is nonsense,” “It’s a sideshow” and “I’ve got to get back to work,” echoed in the hallway.

"Have a good day," Anderson said to the group. "Oh, most of you are Councilman Witts' folks? Oh, howdy, doody."

Witts said he had not seen Anderson’s complaints — more than 100 pages worth — before Friday and he did not leave with copies of them.

He planned to be at the press conference, but added that he didn’t ask anybody to also attend.

“How blessed I am to have so many people come out for me,” Witts said outside the building. “These are people who know me and know that I am ethical.”

Snellville Tod June 11, 2012 at 03:09 AM
Watch out everyone! Someone has hit a nerve.
Kenneth Stepp June 11, 2012 at 10:03 AM
And that nerve will be hit many times soon enough.
lynchsales June 11, 2012 at 03:50 PM
There is plenty of real dirt on George Anderson. I'll send some of you some dirt from people that know all about him.
Jamie Dempsey June 12, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Ladies and GENTLEMEN of Snellville- let it go. a loud roar that goes into an empty vacuum soon drowns itself out. The rise that Mr. Anderson is getting, and the (printed, and therefore usable) responses he is getting, only serves to fuel his misguided fire. Let's move on with the important business of Snellville and the surrounding areas, and let Mr. Anderson carry the VAST burden of PROOF that he was not able to support in the press conference. "I heard." "It is alleged." "I was told that." Responsible journalists, and responsible citizens will weigh on those words as easily as they do whatever comes after them. While it IS, regardless of who is paying him to do so, Mr. Anderson's right to go down this road, it is OUR responsibility to not encourage him in his irresponsible actions.
Lauren Jones September 13, 2012 at 04:20 AM
Danny Porter is supposedly the hardest working DA in America? Are you freaking kidding? This is a man who has botched case after case (He botched my sister's murder trial so badly that her murderer and the man who tried to kill me got a slap on the wrist.), is considered by most of the justices working at the Gwinnett County Courthouse to be a joke (I am very well acquainted with two of the justices.), and is known to give preferential treatment to people who don't deserve it (The CGHS cheerleader who killed members of a family in a crosswalk.). I have spoken to other victims of violent crime in Gwinnett and by and large we all agreed that not only did we believe Danny Porter to be one of the worst parts of the legal system in Gwinnett, but not a single one of us trusted him and would ask specifically for someone else to be put in charge of our cases should something ever happen again to us.

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