COVINGTON -- Ethics complaints have been filed against City Councilmen Keith Dalton and Chris Smith, alleging the two separately own properties they did not report in financial disclosure forms.
Charles Strickland and his wife Louise sent the complaints to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission on Monday.
Louise Strickland filed the complaint against Dalton, which states that he jointly owns four rental properties within Newton County with Jimmy "Craig" Treadwell, but only reported two on his financial disclosure statements for 2010.
The complaint also alleges a conflict of interest, given that Treadwell is a captain with the Covington Police Department, and owns a business with Dalton, Hat Creek Properties LLC.
"What with Covington being a 'City of Ethics,' surely this must violate the city's code of ethics, or at a minimum, should be disclosed (along with recusal) in votes affecting the Covington Police Department, and Capt. Treadwell, who works there," the complaint states.
Financial disclosure statements filed by Dalton on June 17, 2011, covering calendar year 2010, report his ownership of properties at 9169 Lake View Drive and 10155 Twin Oaks Drive in Covington, but not 10143 Allen Drive or 7117 Geiger St., which he owns, according to tax records.
The city of Covington kept on file financial disclosure statements for candidates until last year, at which time candidates were required to start filing with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.
Financial disclosure reports on file with the city for Dalton covering the years 2008 and 2009 are blank.
"My understanding was if there was no activity and no contributions I didn't have to report anything, I just had to sign it. That's how we were advised (by the former city clerk)," Dalton said. "To my knowledge, I haven't done anything criminal. I may have overlooked something but if I did, I can fix that."
Charles Strickland filed a complaint stating that Smith owns three real estate parcels -- two commercial warehouses and his residence -- and none are disclosed on his financial disclosure statement for 2010, filed electronically with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.
The warehouses are at 8305 and 8283 Hazelbrand Road. Smith did report several warehouse locations on disclosure forms on file with the city of Covington, covering the years 2009 and 2008, including the 8305 Hazelbrand location, along with 8305-8311 Hazelbrand Road and 8299 Hazelbrand; 8135 U.S. Highway 278 and a property in McDonough; a hair salon at 3145 Webster St.; as well as his residence on Flat Rock Trail.
Smith said he was confused about the online filing process, but that he believed he had done everything he needed to do, and if not, he would correct it. Smith said the fact that he disclosed those properties in years prior shows that he was not trying to hide anything. "I've never, ever tried to hide anything or not to show anything that I've got. I would never purposely mislead anybody," Smith said.
Charles Strickland said he decided to file the complaint in part due to the "raw deal" his son David Strickland got from the city when he was not reappointed as Municipal Court judge. The city council voted 5 to 1 not to reappoint Strickland earlier this year. The vote came after the city received a complaint from a former employee of East Georgia Correctional Services probation company alleging "unethical and unprofessional" behavior by Strickland, citing a personal relationship with another former employee as well as alleging retaliation against the company after that employee was fired.
"I know he got a raw deal with the city. He's done nothing illegal. These two were too anxious to get rid of him the way I viewed the recording of the session they had," Strickland said. "I just think if they want everybody else to be perfect, they ought to be perfect themselves. Too many people run for public office and once they get in there, they get to be little Caesars. Once they get in there, they don't think the law applies to them ... I've been a part of politics since the Goldwater days and our aim in the Republican Party is to get as good people as we can to run for office and to see they obey the laws like everybody else."
Elected officials must file a financial disclosure report yearly. During a non-election year, reports must be filed between January 1 and July 1. During an election year, reports must be filed within 15 days of the date the candidate qualifies. Candidates not seeking re-election during an election year are not required to file.