I Guess She Slept at a Holiday Inn Express Last Night
It has been an interesting experience watching some of the comments on the Times concerning the censure story. The interesting thing is how Councilmember Richards deflected the blame:
“”I will be the first one to say I made the wrong decision,” Richards said. “… I made some derogatory comments about Commissioner Lutz, about him making some unethical or possibly illegal choices. Badmouthing a county commissioner, in my position, was not the right thing to do, whether it was private or public. I freely admit I made the wrong decision.”
She maintained, however, that she felt that what Lutz “was asking for was unethical, and I don’t think I need to go into why, but I didn’t think badmouthing was something that needed to be in the paper. So, I made the wrong decision to keep (the emails) quiet, and now it’s in the paper.” “
Wait! “I didn’t think badmouthing was something that needed to be in the paper”, but the first thing she did was to send it to the paper to bad mouth Lutz. However, the illegal/unethical question is one that perplexed me and so, I decided to send an e-mail to my commissioner to ask…… and he answered.
I wanted to know so I sent and email to Commissioner Lutz, he was asked to tell our readers about the legal/ethical mess that Councilmember Richards was alluding to. In response Lutz said:
“Councilmember Richards never approached me about it. I did find out that she had concerns after I made the (Open Record) request. I was sensing some apprehension from Flowery Branch when I was trying to get them involved with looking at operating the sewer plant on Spout Springs…
After sending the e-mail, I did receive a call from the Gainesville Times about the e-mail I had sent. I was concerned about the vote and I performed an Open Records Request to see if I could capture the issues and formulate a response. After paying $31.75 for the request, I was able to get a good insight into all of the council members. From the e-mails, I could tell right away that Councilmember Richards did not like the prospect of the city operating the county plant. At first I thought that I could use the e-mails to formulate an argument after it appeared that Councilmember had her wires crossed.
I first became aware that she felt that there may be a legal/ethical issue when she turned over a record that she sent to the Flowery Branch attorney telling him that she has “a problem with him (Lutz) requesting documents regarding the RFP that is still out to bid. I (Richards) think considering he’s on the review committee for the RFP that is still in process – in (sic) would not be ethical for him to review emails pertaining to a municipality he has openly requested a “bid” from knowing there is an RFP in progress.”
What the councilmember did not know is that I had already obtained a legal opinion (attached) and that I was not on the selection committee. The reason that the city had to go a different path form the RFP is that the City would not sign a contract with the County, they would enter into an intergovernmental agreement (IGA). I was pressing Flowery Branch to get a price before the bids were unsealed. After receiving a tentative price from Flowery Branch, the offer was too high and I thanked the council for trying. I choose not to approach Councilmember Richards about her allegations of ethics because her e-mails indicated to me that the argument wasn’t going to benefit anyone and Flowery Branch wasn’t going any further. Of course I did not expect it to go to the press either. “
Interesting when you consider Councilmember Richard’s thoughts on what the Flowery Branch attorney said, “Ron said, ‘Yeah. I don’t really know. I’m not real sure; I don’t think so. It’s hard to tell without the outcome.” I wonder if she has an open record of that conversation.
I will agree with a commenter on the Times that said this was like the last gasp of a drowning victim. Except, I don’t think the person drowning is Lutz; I believe the victim is Richards. As I was going through this I figured that the issue was the Councilmember Richards was trying to practice law; however, practicing law in Georgia with out a license is a crime, so she wasn’t doing that. Her alleged crime was not practicing law; it was the failure to follow the open records law. She certainly has her thoughts on the subject and while she admits fault, she still wants to cast blame on her attorney and Lutz.
Hugh Hall County Akston