The ethics complaint against Avondale Estates commissioners centers around an agreement between the commission and Trammell Crow Residential which, according to the complaint, violates Georgia’s Open Meeting Law. The agreement states that Trammell Crow will remove concrete and plant grass on a portion of four city-owned acres, likely including what’s shown here. Bill Banks file photo for the AJC

Ethics hearing against Avondale Estates commissioners is August 20

The seldom-used Avondale Estates Ethics Board will hold a probable cause hearing 7:30 p.m. August 20 at Avondale’s city hall, 21 North Avondale Plaza.

An ethics complaint was filed earlier this month by John Pomberg, a member of the Planning & Zoning Board, against each city commissioner. Pomberg believes the commission and Trammell Crow Residential negotiated an agreement that violates Georgia’s Open Meeting Law.

The three ethics board members are Mary Ann Anziano, Josh Norris and Chairman Patrick O’Connor. This current board held a work session last Feb. 22 but the last probable cause hearing was March, 2015, with O’ Connor the only holdover from that session.

“[On Monday] we’re supposed to determine if [Pomberg’s complaint] has merit,” O’Connor said. “Does [the complaint] set forth sufficient facts to constitute an alleged violation?”

The board can decide it’s not sufficient, thus ending the entire procedure. But if the board says it is sufficient than a formal hearing must be held within 30 days.

During the formal meeting, if the board then decides there has been a violation of the ethics code, it can recommend one of three punishments. This, however, is where it gets tricky. The punishments:

*Written and oral reprimand by the board of mayor and commissioners—in this case, apparently to themselves.

*A fine greater than $100.00 but less than $500.00 to be imposed by the same board of mayor and commissioners.

*Request for resignation by the commission to, again, the commission.

“I admit,” O’Connor said, [the code of ordinances] is unclear. But the way I read it, we make the recommendations and that’s all we do. [The commission] decides which of the three punishments.”

This is only the third known hearing since the ethics board was created roughly 15 years ago.