The City Council’s failure to properly adopt a Code of Ethics on April 3, 2006, and the subsequent adoption of a new ordinance on Aug. 4, 2008, to correct the initial botched attempt led to the Ethics Committee’s recommendation.
“The committee is bound by ordinances of the City of Temple, and must judge the conduct of Councilman Mann and Mayor Ford based upon those ordinances,” the committee’s written recommendation stated. “Specifically, since the only Code of Ethics that was ever properly adopted was the second Code of Ethics adopted August 4, 2008, the committee can only consider the provisions of that ordinance in judging the conduct of Councilman Mann and Mayor Ford. Since the ordinance of April 3, 2006, was never properly adopted and therefore never a valid ordinance, its provisions cannot be and are not considered by the committee.”
The City Council unanimously approved the committee’s dismissal recommendation Monday night with Councilman Larry Estvanko abstaining from the vote. Both Ford and Mann excused themselves from the room during the proceedings.
Walden filed a complaint against Ford on March 23, 2008, alleging that he used city equipment and labor to have dirt and other debris removed from his backyard and taken to various locations around town. Ford claimed the dirt was a donation to the city, but later paid to have it removed after a visit from EPD found that dirt dumped at an abandoned city wastewater spray field included construction debris.
Earlier this year, the accusation involving the dirt were brought before the Carroll County grand jury, which found no criminal wrongdoing.
“I’ve been somewhat under a gag order and I didn’t want to talk about it because I had the pending ethics complaint, but now if you want to know the truth come and ask me and I’ll sure tell you,” Ford said after the council vote Monday.
Walden also claimed that Ford conducted remodeling work on two Tallapoosa Street homes without purchasing permits or submitting to inspections. Ford freely admits he initially didn’t purchase permits after being told by then-City Clerk Pat Cook he didn’t need them, but later purchased the permits when he was told by a code enforcement officer that he should have done so.
Among the claims against Mann filed by Walden on March 24, 2008, is a charge that he used public office for private gain by voting to approve Twin Ridge Subdivision with an entrance off of Center Point Road even though he was the listing real estate agent for the Twin Ridge homes. The City Council later approved an entrance off Ringer Street due to the expense to the developer of crossing the creek if an entrance were built off of Center Point Road. Walden also alleged that Mann took part in votes related to the creation of a beer and wine by the drink ordinance, even though he was the listing agent for several commercial properties that could have benefited from that selling point. Even so, none of his properties have had establishments that sell beer or wine since the ordinance was approved by the council.
Other allegations against Mann focused on the creation and mailing of a campaign flyer in 2005 that made disparaging comments about Walden’s husband, Howard, who was running against Mann at the time, and Ford, who was seeking to unseat then-Mayor Lester Harmon. Mann’s involvement in the flyer led to ethics charges at the state level as well, which resulted in a $1,500 fine for not disclosing in-kind donations of more than $101 for the flyer in question. No evidence of a breach in ethics was found to support other charges against Mann before the State Ethics Committee.
“I feel like for the last four or five years I’ve been personally under attack in the papers and everywhere else,” Mann said Monday. “I hope this ends it.”
It should be noted that the city’s Ethics Committee specifically stated that they make no determination as to whether the conduct of Ford and Mann would or would not be considered ethical under the city’s current Code of Ethics.
“The Committee expresses no opinion as to whether or not the conduct alleged in the two complaints would be in violation of the 2008 Code of Ethics if such conduct were to have occurred after August 4, 2008,” stated the committee’s written opinion signed by committee members John Dufour and Dale Parrish. Committee member Gene Merritt resigned a few months ago.