Visiting judge clears East Point mayor of code violation case

East Point's mayor,  cited for violating a city ordinance when she distributed newsletters last month, has been cleared by a visiting judge.

Judge Jackie Patterson decided the issue in East Point Municipal Court on Friday, finding in favor of Mayor Earnestine Pittman.

East Point will have to pay for the judge and attorney Robin Shipp, who came in to prosecute the case.

“This was an expensive endeavor at a time when the city is in a fiscal crisis,” Pittman said, adding that the cost has not been determined.

In October, the city issued a citation to Pittman after she had more than 10,000 newsletters delivered to residents.  City officials said the newsletter distribution violated the city’s handbill ordinance, which does not allow anything to be placed within 10 feet of the right of way, or on cars or mailboxes.

“It’s all just about politics," the mayor said when she received the citation. "There are people who don’t want the residents to know what’s going on.”

The newsletter contained information about the city’s planned $900,000 purchase of a Wachovia building on East Point Street to use as part of a new government center. Pittman vetoed the purchase, but her veto was overturned.

Councilman  Lance Rhodes, who has been a vocal opponent of some of the mayor's actions in the past, said he was happy with some aspects of the decision and that the cost is "irrelevant."

"You want an impartial judge when any member of the city council or mayor have charges against them," Rhodes said.