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Horgan appeals ethics slap

Fayette County Commissioner Robert Horgan is challenging an independent panel’s finding that he violated the county’s ethics ordinance by possessing a misdemeanor amount of marijuana in his truck May 23, 2009.

Last week Horgan’s attorney Rick Lindsey argued to senior Superior Court Judge Byron Smith that Horgan was not acting as a county commissioner at the time, and was not in a county-owned vehicle, so he should not be held to the county’s ethics standards for the infractions.

Horgan is asking the court to overturn the ethics ruling.

Horgan has already pled guilty to misdemeanor marijuana possession and driving with an expired tag, charges filed after he was pulled over May 23 on Stanley Road in his pickup truck by a sheriff’s deputy who spotted the expired tag. Horgan was arrested on the charges and booked into the Fayette County Jail before he bonded out, officials have said.

A group of three county attorneys ruled Oct. 14 that Horgan violated the county’s ethics ordinance by not following Georgia law. The panel also determined that his conduct was unbecoming of a public official.

Should the ethics panel’s ruling be upheld, Horgan’s fellow members on the county commission will have to determine whether or not to fine him up to $1,000 and whether or not to publicly censure him.

Lindsey told The Citizen that the ethics ordinance shouldn’t apply to Horgan because his position as a county commissioner had nothing to do with the criminal and traffic charges lodged against him.

“We’re not asking the court to condone his actions. He has already handled those, pled guilty to those in Fayette County State Court,” Lindsey said.

Lindsey further alleged that the ethics charges against Horgan were “purely political” in nature.

Horgan has resisted numerous calls for his resignation, including one several weeks after his arrest by fellow County Commissioner Eric Maxwell. Horgan also survived a recall challenge when a superior court judge in LaGrange ruled in August 2009 that Horgan’s infractions occurred when he was not on official county duty.

On Oct. 22, he pled no contest to the misdemeanor marijuana and expired tag charges. He was sentenced to an $800 fine, 12 months probation and 40 hours of community service by Fayette County State Court Judge Fletcher Sams.

Sams also ordered Horgan to avoid any drug or alcohol use for which he will be tested during the probation period. He must also submit to a drug and alcohol evaluation and follow any recommended course of treatment if any along with attending a session of the county’s new drug court.

Per county ordinance, a three-member panel of nearby county attorneys was convened to hear the ethics complaint in a public hearing. The three attorneys included Jim Fortune of Spalding County, Robert Morton of Pike County and Tyron Elliot of Meriwether County.



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