Chamblee councilman resigns amid ethics investigation

Darron Kusman

Credit: City of Chamblee

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Darron Kusman

Credit: City of Chamblee

Days before the city of Chamblee was going to begin an ethics investigation into one of its council members, he resigned.

Darron Kusman, who served on the Chamblee City Council for eight years, resigned Friday, a city spokeswoman confirmed.

On Monday, the city council was going to review three ethics allegations made against Kusman and finalized a court hearing date. Bruce Brittain, who made the allegations, claimed the councilman failed to disclose his connection to the development of property at 1723 Harts Mill, according to court documents.

Kusman maintains that his involvement in the project was as a private citizen, not as a councilmember. He also denies that he used his position to pull strings and make the project possible.

According to the Secretary of State’s website Kusman owns the development company Roma Ventures, LLC. Roma submitted a request to the county for a sewer capacity evaluation for the property.

However, the plot would end up being purchased by a different development company, Falcon REI, LLC, which plans to build five single-family homes on the narrow, 1.04-acre lot. Kusman’s connection to Falcon is unclear, but the complaint alleges that the purchase would not have been approved if not for Kusman’s involvement with the city council.

Kusman’s lawyer said in a statement Friday, “While our client strongly disagrees with the complaint and the basis for it, he is tired of having to deal with the public discord and the impact on his family."

“After careful review and consideration, I have decided that I am best able to serve my community and my family as a developer,” Kusman said in his resignation letter.

Thank you all for the years of trust in guiding our great city! It has truly been my honor to serve the incredible...

Posted by Darron Kusman - Chamblee City Council on Thursday, October 15, 2020

Brittain told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Kusman’s resignation ends the ethics investigation and removes the potential for conflicts of interest in the development. However, he said the process revealed some issues with the city’s ethics code. This would have been the city’s first ethics investigation since the code was adopted in 2013.

“What came to light in the past few weeks was that the ethics code was pretty poorly written,” he said. “Unless you have deep pockets, it’s very tough or off-putting to bring an ethics investigation, since early in the process, you have to hire a lawyer. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you really can’t hold them accountable."

According to the code, the plaintiff must present their case to an appointed hearing officer, who will review the case and determine if the complaint is unjustified, frivolous or patently unfounded. With the hearing officer’s approval, the case will then move before a three-member ethics committee.

Greg Hecht, an attorney representing Kusman, sent the resignation letter along with a statement to former DeKalb County District Attorney Robert Wilson, who was acting as a hearing officer in the ethics case. Wilson previously allowed the case, which was filed June 22, to proceed.

In an emailed statement, Hecht added that they believe Kusman’s council seat was being used against him by citizens who opposed the development project, which had been previously approved. “In addition, he (Kusman) desires to spare the city any future drama,” the statement said. “The resources to continue this fight are large, and the looming battle will be resolved.”

Kusman’s resignation letter also said he would work with city leadership “to ensure a smooth transition.”

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