An outside investigator recommended Monday that Stockbridge city officials take steps to possibly remove the mayor.
The advice comes after a two-month investigation into allegations that Mayor Lee Stuart violated the city charter, state laws and federal laws. In at least one case, Stuart’s alleged misconduct cost the city $60,000, according to the findings of Christopher Balch, an Atlanta attorney hired by the city council to investigate the allegations.
It is the latest salvo in a three-year legal showdown between Stuart, who filed a lawsuit to block the investigation, and the city council over how the city should be run. City council took no action on Monday’s report, which found that the mayor violated several laws.
Stuart disputed the report, saying it’s another attempt to get him out of office.
“They’ve been working toward having me removed for awhile. That’s been their agenda all along,” he said. “They’re (allegations) all false and taken out of context. We’ll answer them in court.”
Balch looked into nearly two dozen allegations from residents and city employees, everything from Stuart’s supposed attempts to monitor workers’ emails to charges that he helps to foster a hostile workplace to reports that he released during a public meeting sensitive information that led to one person becoming a victim of identity theft. Balch spoke to 17 witnesses, reviewed 2,000 pages of documents and videotapes of council meetings and surveillance cameras. He purposely did not interview council members. In his report to council Monday, Balch told the council he was able to substantiate seven charges. Among them:
- Stuart tried without authorization to monitor some city workers’ emails.
- He revealed and disclosed people’s personal and confidential information at a public meeting. Balch noted Stuart didn’t redact sensitive and personal information when it was presented in a public meeting.
- Stuart violated city charter by not submitting an annual city budget for fiscal year 2013.
- Stuart violated city charter by disclosing security information regarding Stockbridge municipal court.
- He failed to adequately investigate the background of a consultant, which ended up costing the city $60,000.
City council has its next regular meeting Dec. 10. City attorney Bill Linkous, who recommended Balch for the investigation, said council also could call a special meeting to decide whether to go with Balch’s recommendation to hold public hearings that could likely lead to Stuart’s removal.