Nine residents file complaints of illegal conduct in Gordon

awomack@macon.comMarch 3, 2014 

In February, the Georgia Attorney General’s Office received nine complaints from residents of alleged illegal government meetings in Gordon and other alleged misconduct.

The complaints spurred the Attorney General’s Office to send a letter to Mayor Mary Ann Whipple-Lue and members of Gordon’s City Council, requesting their response to those concerns. The Telegraph obtained the records through an Open Records Act request.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Stefan Ritter is scheduled to meet with Whipple-Lue in Gordon on Tuesday to follow up on the complaints and gather information about the allegations, said Daryl Robinson, counsel to the attorney general.

Robinson said similar meetings happen across the state about a dozen times a year.

Typically, the Attorney General’s Office meets with officials to help them understand the law and to help the state office understand the basis for residents’ complaints.

Reached by phone Monday, Whipple-Lue said, “We’ve not had any open meetings that has been, you know, against the rules and regulations of the laws. So, other than that, I have not done anything except kept things in compliance.”

She ended the one-minute conversation and hung up before The Telegraph could ask a second question. A subsequent phone message was not returned.

Robinson said the Attorney General’s Office has prosecuted just one case for civil penalties in recent years.

“Our purpose ... really is not retribution,” he said. “It’s to get everybody to understand the law so they can follow the law.”

Records in the Attorney General’s Office case file on Gordon show:

• The first complaint was emailed Feb. 8 by a 43-year Wilkinson County resident who doesn’t live in the city limits, but who has family living in the city. A second email was sent by another resident the next evening.

• Seven more complaints were filed between about 9 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Feb. 20.

The complaints contained allegations of illegal meetings, financial malfeasance, violations of the city’s charter, racism, nepotism, tampering with files, and job discrimination.

• One person additionally requested information about how to accomplish a recall of elected officials. Ritter responded with a citation from the state law but said he couldn’t provide legal advice.

Ritter responded to each of the complaints. In several of them, he told complainants that allegations aside from Open Records and Open Meetings violations fall outside his office’s jurisdiction.

One of the complaint filers responded back: “With social media what it is today, word of your quick response has lit a fire and a glimmer of hope that somebody, somewhere can help the town with some relief.”

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.

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