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Horgan charges Brown violated Fayette ethics code

Outgoing Fayette County Commissioner Robert Horgan has filed an ethics complaint against fellow Commissioner Steve Brown. The complaint alleges that Brown violated three county ordinances by making an order to a county employee, disclosing information discussed by the board in executive session and also violating attorney client privilege: the latter two of which he did without first seeking approval from his fellow commission members.

Horgan contends he has written proof of all three violations, contained in copies of emails and a letter sent by Brown.

In the letter to Horgan dated Nov. 12, 2012, Brown admits to “instructing” the county’s human resources director to contact the state attorney general’s office about legal requirements for releasing the names of top candidates for the county manager’s position.

That, Horgan contends, is a violation of county ordinance 2-209(n) which states in part that “Commissioners shall not, acting alone, make suggestions to the department directors or their employees regarding the performance of their duties, nor give instructions to department directors or other employees.”

Brown said he was simply trying to find out how to follow Georgia law on the matter. But he added that he didn’t feel comfortable getting the legal advice from either county staff attorney Scott Bennett or county consulting attorney Don Comer. Brown said he flat-out does not trust information that comes from Bennett.

Horgan also cited the March 9, 2012 letter that Brown wrote to State Attorney General Sam Olens in which Brown inquired about potential legal action in which the commission would sue itself. Although the letter does not mention it, Brown was specifically referring to a potential effort to have the county’s new five-district map ratified by a federal court since the legislature failed to vote on the associated local legislation earlier this year, a fact blamed on a failure to meet public notice requirements.

Brown noted that he was careful to word the letter to Olens in such a way as to not reveal any details about the facts or strategy in the case.

“All I asked is can a county government sue itself, which is exactly what we did. Is asking that illegal?” Brown said.

The county did not sue itself in that case; rather, Peachtree City private attorney Rick Lindsey sued the county in federal court and won an order to enforce the new five-district map.

“I think it’s a legitimate question and I don’t think you can sue yourself,” Brown said, adding that he has a duty as a public official to disclose unlawful activity.

In the aggregate, Brown dismissed Horgan’s ethics complaint as “a trainload of sour grapes.”

Now that the complaint has been filed, the ethics board is obligated to review it and ultimately take one of the following options:

• No admonishment and no further action;

• A public reprimand and admonishment not to violate the ethics code in the future;

• A formal reprimand;

• Public censure;

• Recommendation for termination, resignation or recall; or

• Recommendation for prosecution in the State Court of Fayette County.

The board can also decide to “admonish, formally reprimand, publicly censure” any complaining party who files a petition determined to be “unjustified, frivolous, patently unfounded or factually insufficient.”

The county ethics board, appointed late this year, consists of Brooks Mayor Dan Langford, attorney Sheila Huddleston and Peachtree City financial planner Scott Rowland along with two alternates: Pota Coston, a former criminal investigator for the Internal Revenue Service and Larris Marks, a retired human resources director for the U.S. Army Forces Command.



I'm sure that more than I hope that this the last we see from a defeated official and obviously a sore loser. Good riddance I say!

mudcat's picture

it could be an interesting preview into the mind of the one that some would make our next County Commission Chair. We had him for 4 years of stuff like this in PTC - now he's yours Fayette County. Good luck.

TinCan's picture

that doesn't eliminate him from still being ours.

PTC Observer's picture

LOL....does he understand the concept of ethics?

tortugaocho's picture

Horgan understand ethics ? Ha, no way. My bet is that the worker bees who gave this to Horgan to file are Eric Maxwell and Mike Hofrichter and the house of ambulance chasing lawyers. Horgan has done absolutely nothing in office except burn a number rolling down the road. It's still amazing. If it was a teenager you'd simply call him a dumbass. But Horgan is a middleaged guy smoking pot while in office? Wow, do we have some losers running around out here.

NUK_1's picture

Regardless of who made the complaint or who the accused happens to be.

Good riddance to Horgan but I don't think his ethic filing is frivolous and the charges need a fair hearing and so does Steve Brown for that matter.

1. This is the hardest he's worked his whole term.
2. Someone smarter than he must have put him up to this. Frady?
3. What's he think is going to happen? Throw the guy out? Its not like he was smoking dope and driving an vehicle without proper tags.
4. Outgoing commissioner, just take your ball and go home.

1. You don't have a track record that will permit mistakes. Make sure you dot your I's and cross your T's.
2. Your a commissioner, (maybe future chairman) but your not a dictator to county staff
3. Honey tastes a lot better than vinegar. Remember that when you want people on your side.
4. Be careful, you said a lot of not so nice things about some candidates in the last election. This might bite you at the ethics board.

Have a merry Christmas and may the new year bring good times.

This is a pot (head) calling the kettle black deal if there ever was one! Steve Brown gets in trouble for asking for legal advice from the Attorney General Sam Olens??? Wow that's enough to cause us all to worry (about pot head Horgan's mental health).

How completely stupid.

Too bad Horgan didn't consult with the Attorney General when he was hauling the illegal pot in his truck.

Can't wait to see Herb Frady, Lee Hearn and Pot head Horgan gone!!

ginga1414's picture

Brooks Mayor Dan Langford sits on the county ethics board. He very publicly supported Lee Hearn and Sheila Huddleston during their most recent campaign for commissioner. Chairman Herb Frady, Commissioner Robert Horgan, and Commissioner Lee Hearn nominated and appointed Brooks Mayor Dan Langford to the county ethics board.

Sheila Huddleston sits on the county ethics board. While Commissioner Lee Hearn was still in office and campaigning to be re-elected to that post, Ms. Huddleston's campaign signs were attached to Commissioner Hearn's all over the county. Ms. Huddleston appeared in publicity photos with Commissioner Hearn. Commissioner Hearn nominated and with the help of Chairman Frady and Commissioner Robert Horgan appointed Ms. Huddleston to the county ethics board.

Scott Rowland sits on the county ethics board. Commissioner Lee Hearn nominated and with the help of Chairman Frady and Commissioner Horgan appointed Mr. Rowland to the county ethics board.

Now, defeated Commissioner Horgan has filed an ethics complaint against Commissioner Brown who opposed the appointments of Mayor Langford, Ms. Huddleston, and Mr. Rowland.

I'm not making this stuff up, folks. These are facts.

Is it any wonder that Commissioner Brown doesn't trust staff?

One can also state that its a wonder the staff doesn't trust Mr. Brown.

While Mr. Brown has some good qualities, he is also not afraid to stab people in the back. Like I stated earlier, Mr. Brown has to understand that you get more flies with honey. He has been less than kind to the three on the ethics board that now hold his fate in thier hands. Though I don't believe these charges are worthy of anything but a reprimand, these three can recommend termination, resignation, or recall.

NUK_1's picture

Brown cannot plead ignorance since he's already been busted once on ethics charges for probably a little less. Those goofy charges were kind of trumped-up due to his extreme unpopularity as Mayor, but you reap what you sow sometimes.

I don't have a problem with him contacting the State AG on that issue.

Directing county staff to do anything is very expressively prohibited in the county charter and he needs to own that stupid blunder just like his attempt of circumventing the Open Meetings Act. Saying that he has zero trust in the sitting county attorney(on his way out soon anyway) is just Brown being the usual kook-job that he sometimes falls back into over and over, and isn't any excuse at all.

Give the would-be King a reprimand and carry on. He's certainly earned the reprimand by blatantly violating the charter but these aren't charges that rise to the level above the common sense of "just don't do it again. You know better. Act right. Do it again, consequences more severe."

ginga1414's picture

I've watched and listened for many years as Mr. Frady, Mr. Horgan, and Mr. Hearn have been employed by the citizens of Fayette County.

County Attorney Bennett was facing ethics charges of his own.

It is my personal opinion that the three main members of the ethics board were hand picked and appointed to insure that Mr. Bennett and others' bacon could be pulled from the fire. Since Commissioners Brown and McCarty have been in office, neither Horgan or Hearn have voted against Frady. The most controversial issues in the county have been decided by three to two votes against Brown and McCarty.

In his position as county commissioner, Mr. Hearn stood before the public and nominated someone to sit on the elections board that he said that he knew from his church. I was at the commission meeting the night Mr. Hearn nominated and helped appoint his friend from church. I was also at the commission meeting when Mr. Hearn had to admit that his nominee and appointed church friend was actually his cousin. That is the same cousin who has benefited from owning property along the W. Bypass. That is also the same cousin who sits on the on the board of the Fayetteville Downtown Development Authority, and who has been slated to have

The current ethics board was formed because Mr. Bennett had been brought up on ethics charges and there wasn't an ethics board in place. Mr. Hearn nominated Mr. Langford, Ms. Huddleston, and Mr. Rowland to the ethics board. Chairman Frady, Commissioners Horgan and Hearn appointed their three candidates.

Before the ethics board met to study the charges against Mr. Bennett, the county and Mr. Bennett came to a parting of the ways. Mr. Bennett was given a 6 mos. severance package. Therefore, Mr. Bennett's ethics charges disappeared.

According to Mr. Munford's article, "Mr. Horgan cited" a March 9, 2012 letter from Mr. Brown to State Attorney General Sam Olens as being one of the points of his ethics complaint. My question is if that letter warranted ethics charges, why did Mr. Horgan or anyone else for that matter wait some nine months to file that charge?

I've watched as the previous BOC and three members of the current BOC played the "Gotcha" game with other commissioners and the public many, many times.

Horgan and Hearn recieved thier payment this last November when the people chose not to re-elect them for the pot smoking and cousin appointing adventures. They deserved to be fired. That's old news.

It doesn't matter at this point who appointed the ethics board. We have three people on the board that Mr. Brown has antagonized over the years. I agree with Nuk that these mistakes are only cause for reprimand, but politics, like it or not, may play a factor.

I don't know what came first, the chicken or the egg. But trust is a two way street. If Mr. Brown doesn't trust the county staff and it appears the county staff doesn't trust him, there is a reason for this. Could it be that Mr. Brown has a history of stabbing people in the back or not being nice to people?

Wow- this is definetly one of those stories that you just cant believe until you read it.

For those guessing who actually wrote this my money is on Eric Maxwell. Then again, Horgan does have his own Ethics violation to work from as a template. Perhaps when the smoke clears we will find that Horgan wrote this.

For the record, if the county's legal representation was found by Commisioner Brown to be untrustworthy, who was Commisioner Brown supposed to consult with? I would think that the Atty General is a pretty good bet.

One thing that people are missing is this. This stems from a lawsuit. Lets follow the dotted line and see who is suing who. I'll save you the trouble.

In an action that only someone like Robert Horgan could justify, Fayette County is appearantly suing itself through a prearrangement with a third party. It is doing so at taxpayer expense. This is what Commisioner Brown was trying to clarify with Sam Olens. He wanted to know if this was legal. It was eveidently being done on the advice of the county attorney- I assume that's why Brown went to Olens.

I have a feeling that we know who will be left standing when the smoke clears...

NUK_1's picture

Seriously. Don't go down the road inhabited by people like Steve Brown or Don Haddix. You definitely were leaning that way with Haddix, seemed to wake up, now you're going back to sleep again.

The "consulting with the GA attorney general" bit is obvious BS. I'll admit to that.

The "directive" given to a county employee is not. That should never happen. It puts the county employee in a very precarious position and is OUTSIDE the scope of what our elected officials are allowed to do, period.
This isn't Brown's first rodeo either.

The "can't consult the paid county attorney because I don't trust him" is also a big problem. It doesn't matter whether STEVE thinks the county attorney is competent, honest, whatever. You can replace the county attorney(with a nice severance) and move on. Otherwise, your opinion doesn't mean much of anything. It doesn't matter a damn whether you appointed Bennett or not. Follow the simple rules, stop grandstanding, stop violating the ethics regulations in both PTC and now FC, and carry on.

You're focusing too much on "who" made the charges. The charges should stand for themselves, right or wrong. You don't agree with the charges, fine. You are focusing on the same thing the other dimwits in this county are: it was Horgan who made the charge? WHO CARES? Is there merit or not to his complaint is the question, not HOrgan, not Maxwell, not anyone else.

Do the charges have merit or not? Really simple, George.

I didn't comment on the employee issue because I don't know what the county policy is. I haven’t drank any Kool Aid on this. Commissioner Brown (and the rest of the board) received a recommendation from the County Attorney recommending that the County sue itself at taxpayer expense. Since the recommendation came from the county attorney, he felt any advice he offered might be biased. I have to ask- do you think he should have let the county sue itself at your expense? Doesn't that warrant a second opinion? Don't you want your elected officials to take every step possible to ensure that the county is not breaking the law? That’s what we are talking about here.

I haven’t always agreed with Steve, but as you may have noticed, I am not the type of person that will let innocent bystanders be gunned down. Not the taxpayer, and in this case, not Commissioner Brown.

For what it's worth- I applaud you for stating that Commissioner Brown deserves a fair hearing. I hope he gets one. This morning I saw the documentation in question with my own eyes- Commissioner Brown clearly had the best interests of Fayette County at heart. That will be clear in a fair hearing.

I agree that the important issue is the charges, but I also believe that those who filed them is also very important. Dewitt Bodean said "I suppose any note, no matter how sour, sounds like a song if you hold onto it long enough." I fear that is what is happening here. The outgoing commissioners blame Brown for their loss, instead of their own actions and policies. So now they are focused on revenge. Unfortunately, this may be only the beginning. We may be concentrating on burning Steve Brown for the next two years, rather than allowing him to do his job. Let’s let this new board loose and then we can see what they can do. If it doesn’t work, the county can make changes in 2 years. The county chose Steve- and then they chose those whom he supported. For Mr. Horgan- let’s quit playing games. You lost, and the county as a whole won. No amount sour grapes will change that.

birdman's picture

This is really Deja vu at it's best. Brown became mayor in PTC and suddenly the City Attorney was "untrustworthy." Not replaced, but everytime he wanted a legal opinion he hired an outside attorney and paid her for her services out of city funds. So both the City Attorney and a second attorney were being paid. Brown has attended and signed an understanding of the Ethics Laws of the State of Georgia, more than once. Yet he continues to violate them as it suits his needs. Then when challenged he calls foul... "sour grapes," "personal attack," "I just didn't know," etc. Yet off he goes, and violates them again. And when challenged, same ole excuse. Brown thinks he personally runs the govt. As mayor he did this without Council consent and well beyond the reasonable power of a part time mayor.
And now he is trying to "run" the County. HE selects Steve Rapson, his crony from PTC as County Manager, with the blessing of newly elected but not yet in office Commissioners, without the input from current Commissioners, then asks the current Commissioners to "rubber stamp" his buddy's selection. HE gives a direct order to a county manager without the knowledge or permission of any of the commission. As with PTC he is spending inordinate time and money trying to find "dirt" on the people he dislikes. HE decides the County Attorney is "untrustworthy." Really? Why Steve? What has he done to give you this "knowledge?"
So it's really PTC all over again. Surprised??? Not me. Many of us tried to warn you what Steve Brown is really like. Now it begins. Wait until he is installed as Chairman. There will be no stopping him..... that is until he is kicked out of office at the next election.....just like in Peachtree City. As Yogi Berra said it's "deja vu all over again."

mudcat's picture

It is just like watching an old movie where you know how it ends, but some of the acting and drama situations along the way are a must-watch - like a traffic accident. And what's even funnier that Fayette County being warned and electing him anyway is that his not-so-good imitator gets elected in Peachtree City. God help us.

mrs fran sheldon's picture

Mr. Horgan, I think you should just mind your own P's and Q's and leave Mr. Brown alone. After all he was elected and unfortunately you were not. I hope you have a Merry Christmas. It is no surprise that you and your friends do not like Mr. Brown. You are entitled to your opinion. I think you would be better served by just keeping that to yourself. Merry Christmas !

For more fun, click here:

As a fellow Peachtree City citizen, beware of anything near SB.

Watch what he DOES not what he says.

Believe it or not, I am always open to feedback. In this case I am watching what he did. He looked for a second opinion when the county attorney's advice was that the county should sue itself at taxpayer expense. I think details are being ignored because some folks here remember Steve's tenure as mayor. Remember- I saw the paperwork this morning. I know what happened and what was asked of whom. Let’s focus on what’s important. Why is Fayette County suing itself?

Again, I appreciate the feedback from both of you. I hope that the city will learn over time that I judge each situation based on the facts surrounding the decision at hand. That’s what I have done here. I promise I will hold Steve as accountable as I do the Mayor if such a situation arises.

I also do appreciate that the citizens of this city have reevaluated me after I was incorrectly cast as "Donnie's Boy". I guess I am asking for the same benefit of doubt here. Any errors Commissioner Brown made here were in the interest of protecting his constituents. If I had a Crystal Ball, I bet we would see that this is about who runs against Steve Brown in two years. This is setup for politics as usual in Fayette County. I am working hard to breakdown the various Political Machines in Fayette County and restore the power to the voter. I really believe that this is the “Good Old Boy Network” setting up for two years hence, while they still have a voice on the county commission.
So lets you and me stay in touch on this- let’s watch what Commissioner Brown does of the next two years. If it’s a disaster, I’ll be the first one to stand up and say so. But let’s not punish an older Commissioner Steve Brown for any mistakes that a much younger Mayor Steve Brown made. People change over the course of years. Let’s judge Commissioner Brown by what he does, as you said. But let’s not let a failed and bitter former public servant cast judgment for us. We all deserve better than that.

Nuk and Spyglass have been shooting arrows at Steve Brown for years. They hate Steve because he won't give in to the old school knuckleheads.

Steve takes a lot of abuse from the goofballs because he'd rather defend the average Joe's and Jane's. He cleaned up a lot of backroom garbage when he was mayor and the Nuk and Spyglass types hated it.

Wait and see Councilman Dienhart because he'll clean up the county government just like he did in Peachtree City. But don't ever expect Nuk and Spyglass to ever say anything positive about Steve!!

MajorMike's picture


I just watch what someone does.....and go from there.

I encouraged SB to take the high road in the last campaign...he continued to sling mud when none needed to be slung. Horgan etc beat themselves...

I wish SB well....hopefully he can change his stripes.

NUK_1's picture

If it's "slinging arrows" when he does a horrible job as Mayor in PTC or is constantly attacking everyone besides himself, then I am the Bow Master.

I hoped after his crushing defeats in the Mayor's race and then vs. Ramsey that maybe he'd learned his lesson. After all, he changed his positions completely many times on district voting, Westside annexation, turning a church into a Wal-Green's, etc. I figured he might have become a little more politically seasoned. Then I saw his inevitable and relentless attacks on any candidate he didn't support this past election and realized he'll always be the loudmouth who has no idea how to govern or run anything. He's the perpetual outsider with no idea how to lead, much like the idiot we have as a Mayor presently in PTC. I'm shocked you don't like Haddix because there's hardly much difference.

Keep up the good work in PTC.

FWIW, I didn't move to Peachtree City to see recreation amenities let go...I think we need to work hard on the appearance/shape of them in the City. We can do better..even if we must pay a little more in Taxes.. That's my take...obviously off topic here, but it's related to a recent thread about a certain committee in Peachtree City and our needs. :)

They've already been let go, just in case you've missed it. For years now. To clarify, just what is "a little more in taxes" to you?

more in taxes to make a difference. What would it take from each household? Would $100 per household make a difference? More than that? I don't set the budgets...but in my opinion it needs to be addressed.

We all hope that commissioner Brown has learned from his past success and failures over the years, but we have yet to see this. His reign as mayor went so well when he alienated everyone, that he was the first PTC mayor not to get re-elected a second term as the incumbent. Haddix will be the second.

While his reign as commissioner has so far been stimied by Hearn, Frady and Horgan, his behaviors pre and post election still alienate people. Think for a second as a businessman. Would you give up a client paying you $80K a year? Obviously our county attorney is willing to pass this client to someone else because he didnt trust or didnt want to work with Mr. Brown any longer. Why is that? In this economy many of us work with difficult clients since its been proven that it is easier to keep an existing client than to find another.

Mr. Brown fought like a caged dog to get his three followers elected. We will now wait and see how they react under pressure. Mr. Dienhart, just wait and see what happens when one of these three dare to cross Mr. Brown. He will come out fighting in the papers.

Now I do feel that Mr. Brown wants what is best for the county. Personally, I would like to see his New Years letter to the editor (yes, I bet it comes out next week) not complaining about the past but promoting his vision for the future. How he will work with people, state DOT, ect... without the silly letters to editor complaining about everyone but himself.

Mr. Dienhart, you are doing a fine job as councilman and I wish you well.

I appreciate the feedback.

I appreciate the feedback.

NUK_1's picture

Though you sometimes get involved with exchanges with our less than esteemed Mayor, I don't mind that because you conduct yourself with class and dignity, two traits sorely lacking in FC politics these days. Also, we don't want to see a Haddix use the bully pulpit to the extent that he's the only voice out there because there is no way in hell he represents the majority of PTC citizens and needs to be challenged on his BS. We'll take over for you any time you decide this isn't the best place to debate that doofus.

I don't know if I have disagreed with any of your votes on council and I also don't think that really matters to me. I just want an elected leader to act like a LEADER and not some rock-throwing outsider raising hell about how everything is broken and going to hell and let's find someone else to blame it 100% on. Write diatribes in the newspapers, attack everyone on the planet...blah, blah, blah. You've been better than that and I applaud you for it.

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