A Fulton County Superior Court judge has dismissed the lawsuit filed on behalf of Milton Councilman Paul Moore against a resident who filed an ethics complaint against him.
Moore’s attorney, Doug Chalmers, says the legal fight is not over.
“We respectfully disagree with the judge’s decision and we plan to appeal,” the attorney said.
Moore sued neighbor Tony Palazzo in February for attorney’s fees the councilman incurred during an ethics investigation, which found he violated the code. Moore also wanted the court to reverse the ethics panel’s decision.
Judge Thomas A. Cox dismissed the case May 18, stating in his decision that Moore’s appeal of the ethics panel findings was filed too late.
The ethics panel rendered its decision last August, and the appeal should’ve been filed within a month, the judge said.
“Had he appealed the decision of the ethics panel in 30 days, the outcome may be different.” Cox said. “Given this court’s resolution of the dispute, Moore’s claim for attorneys’ fees is denied.”
The court is allowing Palazzo to sue Moore for attorney’s fees.
Palazzo, who owns a private equity firm, said he will seek to recoup his costs. He said he believes that had the judge ruled in Moore’s favor, citizens would be deterred from holding public officials accountable and in fear of repercussions.
“I’ve spent over $30,000 defending myself … and ultimately a citizen shouldn’t have to do this and incur these costs,” Palazzo said. “It’s concerning in that you can’t bring forth ethical concerns about unethical behavior without being targeted and that’s exactly what happened in this case.”
Moore and Palazzo both reside in Milton’s White Columns subdivision.
Palazzo filed an ethics complaint last year when the councilman didn’t recuse himself from a City Council vote on partially reimbursing the White Columns homeowners association $6,800 for the cost of controversial speed radar signs that had been installed in the neighborhood.
Palazzo is president of White Columns HOA and filed the ethics complaint independent of the organization.
The ethics panel found Moore violated municipal and city code of ethics, but no action was taken by City Council.
Moore said in his lawsuit that he suffered financial loss and damage to his communications business and personal reputation as a result of the ethics investigation and findings.
“We will do everything in our power to make sure that Paul is ultimately vindicated and he should be,” Chalmers said.
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