Ethics complaint calls for halt to Avondale mayoral election, resignation of commissioners
This story has been updated.
An ethics complaint filed against the Avondale Estates Mayor and Board of Commissioners calls for a halt to a special election to fill a mayoral vacancy and for the resignation of all the city’s elected officials.
The complaint, filed by attorney Joe Mandarino on March 4, seeks to undo the city’s recent annexation of 154 town homes in the Stratford Green neighborhood off of Covington Road.
Mandarino said the City Commission erred by approving the annexation because there was a vacancy at the time. Former mayor Ed Rieker resigned on Oct. 2, leaving the Board of Mayor and Commissioners with four members. Terry Giager became interim mayor. The special election to replace Rieker is March 17. Five candidates are seeking the job.
Mandarino is asking for that election to be delayed because, his complaint contends, Stratford Green residents shouldn’t be allowed to vote because their annexation wasn’t valid under the city’s charter.
“I pulled the charter,” he said. “It’s pretty clear they can’t do what they did. The board of mayor and commissioners can’t do anything when there’s a vacancy.”
The city’s charter is essentially its constitution, outlining the powers and duties of its elected officials.
Mandarino indicated that he also considered filing a lawsuit.
“Rather than filing a lawsuit which would be kind of expensive, I’m giving the easier way out,” he said. “There appears to be no other way to bring this up legally.”
The ethics complaint argues that the city’s Mayor and Board of Commissioners shouldn’t be conducting any business until a vacancy is filled, meaning there would be no meetings until the election.
“Reasonable people can argue it is not wise to stop the legislative power of government when such vacancies occur,” the complaint says. “Reasonable people can argue that a better system would be to allow a temporary appointment during such vacancy, or increase the quorum requirement. However, that is not what the charter says.”
Avondale Estates Mayor Terry Giager said, “It is a bit unusual in that it really doesn’t seem to be an ethics complaint, but more a statement of legal objections. We have asked the City Attorney to advise us regarding the legal aspects of the matter. The complaint will proceed according to our ethics ordinance. I am quite confident there has not been any ethics violation and that what is presented in the complaint is factually wrong.”
It’s not clear if the city’s Ethics Board will act before the March 17 special election. According to the city’s ethics code, “Any person having a complaint against any member of the board of mayor and commissioners, planning and zoning board, zoning board of appeals, all advisory commissions and committees for an alleged ethics violation shall file in writing a complaint setting forth the particular facts and circumstances which constitute the alleged violation. The complaint shall be filed with the city clerk. The ethics board shall be notified of the alleged violation and shall hold a probable cause hearing within thirty (30) days of being notified of the alleged violation.”
Read more: A copy of the complaint filed against the Board of Mayor and Commissioners.