Ethics complaint against Cobb commission dismissed

Caption
New Braves stadium fly by

The Cobb County Board of Ethics on Wednesday dismissed an ethics complaint against the four county commissioners who approved building a new Atlanta Braves stadium in the Cumberland area.

Only ethics board member Walter Moon voted against dismissing the complaint, which was filed by persistent commission critic Larry Savage in March.

That complaint says commission chairman Tim Lee and district commissioners Bob Ott, Helen Goreham and JoAnn Birrell violated their oaths of office by voting in favor of a preliminary agreement with the Braves to build the stadium, and for voting in favor of creating a special taxing district that is a big part of the revenue needed to pay stadium debt.

Commissioner Lisa Cupid is not named in the complaint because she voted against both issues.

Ethics Commission member Darrell Sutton said that Savage may have a case, but in a court of law and not in front of the ethics board. That was a common opinion.

“We are not vested to pass judgement on these matters,” ethics board member Doug Shaddix said. “These are all points of law.”

Savage said the board “skipped over” its responsibilities.

“I didn’t ask for a legal decision,” Savage said. “This was supposed to be a determination of whether to have a hearing. The answers they want would have been given at a hearing.

“I think they came in here knowing they weren’t going to touch this.”

Savage’s complaint says commissioners acted unethically by:

  • Committing tax revenue to pay for revenue bonds on the project. The complaint says revenue bonds must be paid off with funds "derived from the project."
  • Creating a new taxing district that basically overlays the state-created Cumberland Community Improvement District, which the complaint says "foreclosed the county's authority to do so."
  • Undertaking bond debt without seeking approval of voters.
  • Assessing taxes to pay for a professional sports stadium.

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