Hapeville City Councilwoman Ruth Barr has been suspended from office following her conviction last week on felony theft charges in Gwinnett County, but local residents had been calling for her to be removed for more than a year.
“They knew all about Ruth Barr. They knew they could have impeached her,” said George Rogan, a member of the Hapeville Community Coalition.
Not so, said Hapeville Mayor Alan Hallman. Until last week’s convictions, the most serious charges against her were only allegations, he said.
“I’ve reminded people constantly that she is entitled to due process,” he said.
Barr was convicted on charges that she stole more than $100,000 from a relative, but an investigation last year by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action news revealed she may have cheated thousands of people out of much more through her tax preparation business . The Georgia Department of Revenue is seeking to recover $6.4 million from thousands of Georgians who had their taxes done by Barr. Many of Barr’s clients were firefighters and police officers who came to Barr on promises of large refunds only now to find they owe money to the state.
Hallman, who has known Barr almost his entire life, said he privately asked his long-time friend to step down from her city post.
“There were several attempts made to find a way to have her basically removed from office during this process. One council member was very adamant about that,” he said. “We all verbally told her. We didn’t make it a big public spectacle, but I told her on two occasions and once the council as a group asked her to.”
But did the city do enough? Some believe she actually got favorable treatment.