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Ethics Complaint Filed Against Four Cobb Commissioners

Posted by on March 24, 2014
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The following Ethics Complaint was filed on Friday, March 7th:

ETHICS COMPLAINT    –  Members of the Cobb County Board of Commissioners

The following material is presented as a sworn statement in the complaint against Tim Lee, Chairman, Helen Goreham, District 1 Commissioner, Bob Ott, District 2 Commissioner, and Joann Birrell, District 3 Commissioner, all of Cobb County, Georgia. This complaint is made by Larry Savage, a citizen, registered voter and taxpayer in Cobb County. This complaint charges that these four Commissioners violated their Oath of Office and violated the Ethics Code of Cobb County

• in voting for the Memorandum of Understanding with the Atlanta Braves regarding plans to build a new stadium in Cobb County for use by the Braves, a team in Major League Baseball.

• And again in voting for the creation of Special Districts and associated new taxes and fees for hotel fees and ad valorem taxes.

Specifically, the Commissioners violated Oath and Code as follows:

1. Failed to meet the requirements of their Oath: “I will so act as in my judgment will be most conducive to the welfare and best interests of the entire county.” They have made decisions and committed the county taxpayers to unknown obligations in the matter of the proposed stadium for the Atlanta Braves. In doing so, their assessment of the proposals and their judgment has not been minimally “conducive to the welfare and best interests of the entire county”. They have failed to question the proposal, have failed to seek reasonable assistance, have failed to seek appropriate professional services and have failed to seek appropriate input from the community.

2. Failed to meet the requirements of the Oath “that I will support the Constitutions of the United States and of this State” by approving the Memorandum of Understanding with the Atlanta Braves and committing the County to actions that violate the Georgia Constitution. Violations of the Georgia Constitution include

a. Commitment in the MOU to issue Revenue bonds to be paid with funds not “derived from the project” violates the “Revenue Bond” Clause (Article IX, Section VI)

b. Commitment in the MOU to undertake bond debt without the assent of the voters in an election violates the Constitution, Article IX, Section V, “Limitation on Local Debt”.

c. Commitment in the MOU to assess taxes for purpose of paying interest and principle on debt for a professional sports stadium violates the Constitution by exceeding the authority granted in the “Supplementary Powers” Clause

d. Commitment in the MOU to assess various taxes for purpose of paying interest and principle on Revenue bond debt violates the Constitution’s “Revenue Bond” Clause by exercising the “power of taxation for the purpose of paying any part of the principal or interest of any such revenue bonds”.

e. Action to levy new taxes (hotel circulator “fee” and ad valorem tax) in violation of the Georgia Constitution Article IX, Section II, Paragraph 1, C, 4. (adoption of a form of taxation beyond that authorized by law or by the Constitution).

3. The Constitution and Georgia Code are violated in several instances by the creation of “Special District” I and “Special District” II:

a. Despite clear and numerous examples of the definition of “Special District”, the Commissioners have created completely new definitions of “Special District” that are not found at all in O.C.G.A. or the Georgia Constitution.

b. The county has cited authority under the Special District Clause of the Constitution. The Clause states that a Special District can be created by “… municipal or county ordinance or resolution, except that no such ordinance or resolution may supersede a law enacted by the General Assembly pursuant to subparagraphs (a) or (b) of this Paragraph.” Clearly the General Assembly has in fact already created numerous Special Districts (“c” below), foreclosing the county’s authority to do so.

c. The definition of “Special District” appears in several Code sections as listed:

i. O.C.G.A. § 50-32-12 Describing jurisdiction for GRTA

ii. O.C.G.A. § 48-8-81 Joint county and municipal sales and use tax

iii. O.C.G.A. § 48-13-50.1 Excise tax on rooms, lodgings and accommodations

iv. O.C.G.A. § 48-13-92 Excise taxes on rental motor vehicles

v. O.C.G.A. § 48-13-111 Excise tax on sale or use of energy

d. The definition of “Special District” in each of these Code sections is as follows:

“Creation of special districts

Pursuant to the authority granted by Article IX, Section II, Paragraph VI of the Constitution, there are created within this state 159 special districts. One such district shall exist within the geographical boundaries of each county, and the territory of each district shall include all of the territory within the county”

e. “Special Districts” for production of revenue have been created with boundaries that were determined totally arbitrarily and are in conflict with prior Special Districts created by the General Assembly, exceeding any authority granted by the Constitution or statute.

f. “Special Districts” for production of revenue have been created with arbitrary designation of selected members of the population who will or will not be subjected to ad valorem tax within the special district, exceeding any authority granted by the Constitution or statute.

This summary includes several current violations of Constitution and Code. More detailed explanation will be provided as needed in appropriate venue. I reserve the right to amend the complaint as conditions warrant.

Larry Savage
4226 Columns Drive
Marietta, GA 30067

Ethics Case Supporting Documents

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