Georgia Supreme court reinstates charge against ex-Morrow official

A perjury charge against a former Morrow city manager was reinstated Monday by the Georgia Supreme Court.

The charge against John Lampl II was dismissed by a trial court, and an appeals court upheld that ruling. But the high court disagreed, finding that, while the grand jury exceeded its authority in investigating Lampl, dropping the perjury charge was not the proper remedy.

“It doesn’t change much because the honorable Supreme Court of Georgia wrote (in a footnote) that the trial court must carefully consider dismissing the perjury count,” Lampl’s attorney Brian Steel said Monday.

Lampl is accused of lying under oath to the special grand jury regarding the construction of Olde Towne Morrow, a now-defunct retail and entertainment complex near Southlake Mall. Lampl told the panel that Olde Towne Morrow had no debt and was paid for when, in fact, there was a $10 million bond involving the property, according to the Clayton County District Attorney’s office. Monday’s decision allows statements made to the grand jury to be used as evidence.

No trial date has been set.

“We’re excited to go to trial and vindicate an innocent man,” Steel said.

In addition to the perjury charge, Lampl is accused of awarding contracts without properly soliciting bids — a violation of state laws — in connection with hiring companies to build Olde Towne Morrow.

The case against Lampl dates to June 2011 when a special grand jury subpoenaed him and various other witnesses to testify as part of their investigation into public corruption in the county. Lampl was indicted three months later on charges of conspiracy in restraint of free and open competition, false statements in writing and perjury related to the failed commercial complex that cost millions. The charges are still pending.

The $13 million Olde Towne Morrow complex is full of code and safety violations and shoddy construction. City officials, who decided to shut it down, say it will have to be gutted and would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to make it move-in ready. Many of the shops and several of the historic homes on site are unfinished.

Because Lampl was neither a publicly elected county official nor a county employee, and never had been one, his attorney filed a motion to dismiss the indictment on the grounds that it stemmed from an illegal investigation. The attorney said Lampl was improperly targeted and that the investigation exceeded the scope of the special purpose grand jury. The Georgia Court of Appeals agreed in November 2013.