Ethics complaint filed against Johns Creek councilwoman

The complaint was filed on behalf of the Johns Creek Convention and Visitors Bureau April 9 against Councilwoman Stephanie Endres stating the official harassed and threatened the organization. Courtesy Facebook
The complaint was filed on behalf of the Johns Creek Convention and Visitors Bureau April 9 against Councilwoman Stephanie Endres stating the official harassed and threatened the organization. Courtesy Facebook

Stephanie Endres’ focus on the convention bureau led the nonprofit to file a complaint citing harassment

A Johns Creek Councilwoman describes an ethics complaint against her as a “baseless series of allegations.”

Councilwoman Stephanie Endres is the subject of an ethics complaint filed on behalf of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Filed April 9, it states Endres harassed and financially threatened the organization if it didn’t change its bylaws.

In an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Endres said she’s been wronged.

“It is disappointing and disheartening to see these types of baseless, bullying attacks levied against me for fulfilling my duties and oath as a Johns Creek City Council member,” Endres said.

The councilwoman maintains that the organization is a city agency and does not hold its meetings according to the Open Meetings Act and its funding should be reconsidered.

Bureau attorney Monica Gilroy said the nonprofit organization is not a city agency and recently adjusted its bylaws as a good faith gesture to show that its meetings are conducted in accordance with the Open Meetings Act.

Gilroy filed the ethics complaint after failing to get a formal apology from Endres for pressing the tourism organization about its bylaws and suggesting the city could withhold monies received through hotel/motel tax revenue. Gilroy has said the Bureau received about $300,000 in 2019.

Gilroy said the most recent example of intimidation was a February letter sent by Endres to the state Attorney General’s office requesting a review of the tourism organization’s meeting practices.

“We’re alleging she violated multiple sections of the city code of ethics and specific violations of Georgia law,” Gilroy said of the ethics complaint. “Just by violating the ethics code she violated state law.”

The disagreement goes back to last year when Councilwoman Erin Elwood told the organization that Endres would advise council to stop city funding unless the nonprofit tweaked its bylaws to say it is an agent of the city and made voting changes to conform with the state Open Meetings Act. This message was conveyed without the knowledge of Mayor Mike Bodker and fellow council members.

Endres said of the ethics complaint, “I am reviewing the 73-page document and its bizarre series of allegations, which appear to be that the (Convention and Visitors Bureau) — a government entity funded entirely by the hotel/motel tax — is not required to abide by state law, and that attempts by elected officials to hold it accountable to taxpayers constitute oppression and misrepresentation.”

The ethics complaint was being reviewed this week, city spokesman Bob Mullen said.

Johns Creek doesn’t have an ethics board. The city has a group of attorneys that act as hearing officers for such matters, Mullen said. One of those attorneys will be appointed as a hearing officer and will review the complaint against Endres. If the hearing officer were to decide that Endres violated the code of ethics, that person would make a recommendation to City Council on a reprimand, censure or other action, Mullen said.

In January, Gilroy requested a formal apology from both Endres and Elwood. Elwood sent a written apology to the board of directors in February.

Endres has not apologized. She told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in February that she never advised Elwood to speak on her behalf to the tourism organization.

That month, Endres emailed a letter to Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Colangelo asking for an investigation into her concerns. Documents provided to the AJC by Gilroy show Mayor Mike Bodker emailed Colangelo on the same day to say Endres’ inquiry was independent of the city.

“I can inform you that any requests made by Mrs. Endres related to this matter are not officially sanctioned by our governing body,” Bodker wrote.

Colangelo did not return a call or email from the AJC requesting comment.

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