Monday, May 1, 2023–9:24 p.m.
-John Bailey, Rome News-Tribune-
This story is possible because of a news-sharing agreement with the Rome News-Tribune. More information can be found at northwestgeorgianews.com.
The first open hearing concerning an ethics complaint filed against Rome City Commissioner Mark Cochran is scheduled to be held Tuesday morning at City Hall.
There remains some question as to what action, if any, will be taken at the meeting scheduled for 10:30 a.m. in the city commission chambers. It is expected that the committee will consider whether or not there is enough evidence to move forward to a full evidentiary hearing.
If the committee decides the merits of the complaint warrant such a hearing, a date will be scheduled. If the committee decides the complaint is meritless, then the complaint will be dismissed. There is also the possibility that the committee would seek to consult further with the appointed special ethics prosecutor representing the city, Chris Balch, before making that decision.
The gist of the complaint centers around allegations of abrasiveness toward staff members and questions about whether Cochran faced a conflict of interest or had a financial interest in projects that came before the commission.
The first meeting of the three-person investigative panel appointed to hear the allegations met in a closed Zoom meeting on April 26 with Balch.
The appointed committee consists of Bremen Mayor Sharon Sewell, Adairsville Mayor Kenneth Carson, and Summerville Mayor Harry Harvey.
An agenda for the April 26 meeting stated the committee would open with the selection the panel’s chair. The meeting did not begin in open session and no vote was taken in the open to close the session to the public, as required by Georgia’s Open Meetings Act.
As of Monday the committee also had not filed an affidavit — required by law — regarding the closed session. The committee is expected to execute that affidavit as part of the meeting Tuesday.
An agenda for the meeting also states the panel will take up the business of selecting a panel chair and then consider and discuss the panel’s options in response to the complaint against Cochran.