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Horgan, commission face a decision on ethics
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TOPIC: Horgan, commission face a decision on ethics
Horgan, commission face a decision on ethics 2 Months, 1 Week ago Karma: 0
On the last weekend before local high school graduations, a Fayette County elected official got caught doing what you might expect from a tiny minority of high school seniors: Toking while trucking.

County Commissioner Robert Horgan was pulled over on Gingercake Road May 21 for driving a pickup with a tag that had expired the previous month.

The deputy sheriff said “a strong odor of marijuana” wafted from the truck’s open windows, according to the arrest report.

He asked the driver “if there was anything illegal inside his vehicle that I needed to be aware of. Horgan stated that there was not.”

“Horgan looked flushed and pale in the face and appeared to be extremely nervous. Horgan’s hands began to shake, and his voice began to tremble in conversation.”

The deputy got Horgan’s permission to search the truck. After the search started, “Horgan admitted that there was marijuana in a pill bottle under the seat in his vehicle, and the marijuana was his.”

“The pill bottle contained two plastic bags with a green leafy substance suspected to be marijuana, and a pack of rolling papers. One of the plastic bags contained a small rolled marijuana cigarette.” Horgan told a second deputy that he had just left a home improvement center in Fayetteville and “had just smoked some of the marijuana on his way to his house.”

When Horgan was arrested and placed in the back of the deputy’s patrol car, Horgan asked, “If there was anything we could do to resolve this right here, right now. I told him no,” the deputy’s arrest report said.

The Citizen broke the story online Tuesday afternoon and in the print edition Wednesday morning. Horgan did not return any of our phone calls for comment, and refused to resign at the Thursday night county commission meeting.

From our story about that charged commission meeting:

In his apology, Horgan acknowledged “the negative cloud that now lays over our community and this board because of the incident that I was involved in over this past weekend.”

“I can only assure you that I will do everything that I can to regain your respect and your trust in my ability to function as your county commissioner. I hope that you accept my apology and allow me to continue to work earnestly for our community as I have for the past five years.”

Commission Chairman Jack Smith said he felt the incident was “unfortunate.”

“The board will continue to work as your representatives and we hope that this incident and the negative impact it has had on this body will be resolved fairly and expediently for all involved,” Smith said.

Here’s what’s “unfortunate”: Horgan has clearly violated the county’s ethics ordinance, and Chairman Smith and the other three commissioners seem content to sweep this embarrassment under the rug.

Some pertinent excerpts from the county’s code of ethics:

“The purpose of this Code of Ethics is to establish ethical standards of conduct for all officials and employees of Fayette County by identifying acts or actions that are incompatible with the best interests of the community and the organization and by requiring disclosure by such officials and employees of private financial, or other interests, in matters affecting the County.

“Those covered officials and employees are bound to observe in their official acts the highest standards of behavior and to faithfully discharge the duties and responsibilities of their office, regardless of personal considerations, recognizing that the public interest must be their primary concern.”

“Covered officials and employees shall not exceed their authority or breach the law, or ask others to do so, and they shall work in full cooperation with other public officials and employees unless prohibited from so doing by law or by officially recognized confidentiality of their work.”

“Notwithstanding any provisions of law to the contrary, each covered official and employee of Fayette County shall:

“(1) Uphold the Constitution, laws and regulations of the United States, the State of Georgia, and all governments therein and never be a party to their evasion ...”

“(8) Never engage in other conduct which is unbecoming to an official/employee or which constitutes a breach of public trust.”

“C. If a complaint is received by the Clerk of the Board of Commissioners which alleges a violation of the Code of Ethics by a member of the Board of Commissioners, an independent review board will be formed if the complaint alleges sufficient facts which, if proven to be true, would be a violation of the Code of Ethics. The County Attorney of any County within the Griffin Judicial Circuit, except the County Attorney for Fayette County, shall make the determination of whether or not a review board should be impanelled. If a review board is needed, three (3) County Attorneys within reasonably close geographical proximity to the County will be requested to conduct a public hearing based upon the complaint. A majority vote, based on clear and convincing evidence, will determine the existence of a violation.”

“Covered officials and employees are subject to the following penalties and action for violations of this Code of Ethics:

“(1) Written reprimand or public censure;

“(2) Recovery of value transferred or received by the County;

“(3) Cancellation of the contract or rejection of the bid or offer;

“(4) A monetary fine not to exceed $1,000.00; and

“(5) Demotion or termination.”

Let’s see if Horgan and Smith and the other three commissioners will have the decency to do what is not only right, but is legally required.

Let’s see whether these five elected officials possess the integrity to put legally mandated ethical behavior ahead of their own personal or private interests.

Richard J. Rawlings (Admin)
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