Saturday, August 6, 2016

Dunwoody Politics.. What is the status?

Several weeks have now passed since the Mayor took it upon himself to execute powers he did not have according to the Dunwoody City Charter.  Changing city policy the implementing it without city council review and approval is not something the Mayor can just do.

The action of the Dunwoody legal team, advising the Mayor and writing the memo that in essence forced DHA member to choose who they wanted to serve, makes them complicit in the Mayor’s actions. Adding to this, informing the members that they would face ethics charges or State charges if they discussed the issue with other calls their behavior into question as well.

The city’s response to these very distressing actions was to hire outside attorneys to investigate themselves.

I have several questions regarding these issues:

Are the citizens that are nominated by the Mayor to the Board of Ethics vetted by anyone on the city council prior to the nominations going forward or are these "nominations” taken and approved as a courtesy to the Mayor?

What is the current status of the legal review by outside council of the actions by the Mayor regarding the controversial Executive Session and illegal policy change regarding Board appointees and the DHA?  Will any part of that investigation be public?

Is not an investigation of these actions better and more correctly addressed by a Board of Ethics review and not an attorney hired by the Council to investigate itself?  A negative ruling by the BOE on any of these issues would result in consequences and send a message that these behaviors will not be tolerated.

As I have said before publicly, these action weakened if not destroyed the trust that citizens of Dunwoody had in its city government. I believe that these events should undergo a complete legal review by the process we already have in place and that is Board of Ethics

Monday, July 18, 2016


“We cannot turn on each other” (President Obama)

It has to stop. People who know me know that I am a Republican. That does not forbid me from respecting the Office of the President of the United States. It does not mean that I participate in the blanket hatred that some right wing conservatives heap upon President Obama.

There my preamble is done.

This however is a time for politics and the hateful rhetoric of all people to be set aside. Whether it be Trumps often hate filled rhetoric, or the sometimes mixed message of Black Lives Matter, we all need to stop, step back, take a deep breath and see what is happening to us as an American people.

We need to stop posting and re-posting half-truths or opinions as fact.

Do not waste your breath telling me I do not understand, BLM or Liberty Party/Tea Party/Trump messages. If you do, you are missing a MUCH bigger picture.

Rhetoric from both sides fuels the hate. The hate of a few that erupts in death, often of the innocent. As President Bush said in Dallas last week, we then go on to judge the whole by the actions of a few.

Rhetoric from political parties immediately tries to change the focus to their causes such as gun control or the uncontrolled right to own and carry a hand gun. Again do not waste your time by replying and spouting more partisan political views. If you do you are a bigger part of the problem than you realize.

We need to all sit down and face the real issues of the day and find the way.

Slain Baton Rouge Cop’s Haunting Facebook Plea: 
‘Please Don’t Let Hate Infect Your Heart.’ (Montrell Jackson)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Battle is Over, Time To Move ON

The final decision on the fate of the Brook Run Theater was made on Monday night. It was a long battle by a group of dedicated Dunwoody volunteers who despite having years to come up with a plan, failed to garner city wide support and failed to raise a single dollar or committed sponsor. 

Their first feasibility study was incredibly weak on details and financials based on wild guesses and data that could not be justified by any method. The follow up report where they were told specifically what the council expected to see was even weaker than the first. In fact the report they submitted and the chief flag waivers comments in the Reporter News Paper exposed they did not have community wide support. 140 signatures on a petition is an incredibly small number despite having a booth at Lemonade Days (the largest city function held every year) where they actively solicited visitors for signatures. Their Facebook page had 150 people in the group. Once again minuscule numbers coming from a city with a population of +/- 45,000 residents. 

So a well thought out motion made by Councilwoman Deutsch was immediately seconded. Before a vote was taken the Mayor properly offered a substitute motion of $500,000 dollars in cash and $500,000 in Parks Bond money be directed to the Save the Theater/Center group. This coming from the Mayor who only a few weeks earlier had said "no tax payer money would be used" The result was a deafening silence from the other 6 councilmen and councilwomen. The Mayor’s motion failed for lack of a second. The original motion to seek bids to demolish the theater passed 6-1 with Mayor Shortal the lone NO vote.  After the vote the mayor was quoted as saying:

“We’re undermining a lot of citizens tonight, a lot of our rich 
talent” Reporter News Paper Juy 11 2016

I am done with this issue. The battle is over and we all need to move on. Mr. Ross (chief flag waver) was visibly upset after losing the vote and said: 

"To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement,” he said. “They’re going to kill the community … the spirit of volunteerism. ”Reporter News Paper Juy 11 2016

If he and some of the members of his group believe that, it is a sad statement and a sad day if they follow through with it.

These volunteers have an incredible track record working with various groups that have been critical to the growth of the city and community of Dunwoody. I urge and hope that every one of them realizes that while they lost this battle, there are many more battles to fight. If they take their ball and go home, the city might be diminished. The very city they worked so hard for could suffer. I believe however that the spirit that has led this community for 50 years and guided this city since it was created will recover with new generation of volunteers. This is what Dunwoody has always been about. 

So Danny get angry, vent; get it out of your system and find a new project. To all of the volunteers, do not let Danny’s and the Mayor’s prediction come to fruition. There is so much to do and the city can always use your help 

We did not become a city so you could get your own way. We became a city so our neighbors who serve as our leaders could make these types of decisions locally. Their message Monday night was clear. Now it is time to reunite and move on.   

Friday, July 8, 2016

TIME IS UP,,, There is no money, no plans to raise money. What we have can't pay their way and the Mayor needs to RECUSE himslef.- TEAR IT DOWN

he feasibility report about the Theater in Brook Run indicated that the Dunwoody Stage Door Players would be a primary user of the restore theater. In order to meet the numbers in their projections, the Stage Door Players would have to increase the number of shows they produce each season, increase attendance from the 125 seat theater at the Spruill Center to a 350 seat theater, cut expenses and so on. Here is the Financial Report through 2014.

Well it seems that the Save the Theater at Brook Run overlooked the fact that at its current location, the Dunwoody Stage Door Players are losing money at an amazing rate through 2014.  If these were your financial records, you would be heading to bankruptcy court.  As of 2014 they were in the hole over $49,000.  Not a strong beginning for a tenant that you are counting on to pay the majority of the bill.

The Save the Dunwoody Theater group is a spinoff of the Preservation Trust.  Maybe not officially but the membership from both groups overlaps significantly.  This group already has control of the Chestnut Farm on Chamblee Dunwoody.  Since they are a vendor for the city, I think their financial records should be made public as well.  How much of the funds raised at Lemonade days and other events is being spent on the farm house?  How much money if any has been spent from that organization for the Theater cause?  These are funds being used on properties owned by the city.  The citizens have a right to know this information.


It has been told to me by several people that there is a conflict of interest involving the Mayor.  I do not think it is a conflict simply because the Mayor’s wife is on the Save the Theater Board, although there may be an appearance of a conflict.  I am more concerned that it appears that the first person to know about the County/City settlement was Danny Ross.  No sooner had the Judge signed the order, it appears that the Mayor and Mr. Ross were talking about using $1.5 million could be used as seed money for the restoration project.  With this in mind it is clear to me that the Mayor should recuse himself from any vote on the Theater project to avoid any and all inference of conflicts

City Investment and Subsidies

Finally, there is a concern over the ongoing expenses that the city will incur yearly.  Perhaps a subsidy for the Stage Door Players, operating costs, a manager to schedule the many activities that we are told will be occurring.  Again from the feasibility report,

An open ended expense that the tax payers of this city will be responsible for.  If the Stage Door Player cannot meet the revenue expectations, that subsidy would undoubtedly rise.
The financial report being presented on Monday is no plan at all.  Of its 50 some pages most are press clipping and supporter comments.  Pages are dedicated to a petition that shows “overwhelming support” for the Theater.  It does not make clear if those who signed it were actually residents of Dunwoody.  I know several names right off the top of my head where the people live in Atlanta or Sandy Springs.  45,000 people in Dunwoody and 150 or so signatures is NOT overwhelming support.
Time is up-Time to tear it down

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Time is Up - Tear It Down

Save the Theater at Brook Run
No wait, Save the Brook Run Community Center

They have had over a year, at least it feels that long, to come up with some compelling reason to save the Brook Run Theater.  They were given 3 months to come up with a plan to raise the money to restore the Theater.  What have we got?

It is an announcement that the cause was going to be rebranded as a Community Center.  I am sure that the appeal to council will be we need more time for a “plan” because now we are saving a Community Center, which just happens to have a theater attached to it.  Stop the insanity

I love Danny Ross’s quote in the reporter last week, “If they want to tear it down, they can. But they do so at their own peril”.  Peril, really ?  Peril?  Someone define this for me.  They have a Facebook page with (nearly) 150 members and have been pushing a petition that has a whopping 140 signatures. (Just curious, how many of these supporters actually live in Dunwoody? Who exactly does that put in “peril?

So after a year of trying and given 3 months to come up with a plan to save whatever it is they are saving, they have changed direction and now will be asking for MORE time to raise money for this Bomb shelter. 

Now here is where it gets interesting.  The Save the Theater, Community Center/Bomb Shelter is now admitting that the City has to pony up some cash to make this work. Without a city commitment they claim that they cannot get a “major” corporate sponsor. The Mayor has made several comments in advance of all of these meetings so understanding where he is headed is more confusing than ever. 

Upon hearing of the bond settlement with the county, the Mayor immediately suggested that the city give $1.5 of that settlement as seed money for the Save the Theater campaign.  After feeling some blow-back on that idea he then said that no taxpayer money would be used. I can only hope he understands that whether it is tax money or the bond settlement money, it is ALL tax payer money.

Here is a kicker: “We’ve got to get our council on board, but also back away and give us time to do it.” 

OK, we give them money and back away. Got it.  Just one question, has anyone ever seen the Dunwoody Preservation Trust’s financial statement?  How about that of the Save the Theater group itself? How about the suggested primary users of a restore theater, The Stage Door Players?  

Not a big fan of giving money to anyone where the city and the public do not have a complete accounting or say in where that money is going and being spent.

I love the spokesman’s statement,” It is not their money it belongs to the people of Dunwoody” Let‘s remind the spokesman that we elected the Mayor and City Council to be good stewards of “our” money, not some special interest group.

So the update that this special interest group will give at the City Council meeting will be more talk. There will be no mention of a financial plan to raise the money as they were instructed to do by the Council three months ago.  Instead we will get a plan to hire someone to come up with a plan.  We get that only after the City agrees to support (not moral support, but a financial commitment) the restoration. After the initial contribution, the city will be on the hook for annual expenses to operate and staff this facility.

We should move this city out of the 1970’s and 80’s and build for our future.  Improve the parks, add restrooms, rest stations, water fountains, a community rec center and oh god forbid some playing fields.  How about all weather fields that kids, friends and family could have access to all of the time? Check out Hammond Park in Sandy Springs are a prime example of what we could and should do.

The future of Dunwoody should be directed at young families with kids and the young millennials that studies have shown want to move here. Build for tomorrow.  Do not waste any more time or money on retrofitting a 1970 structure with no historical significance other than it is old for the benefit of a few privileged end users and an elite special interest groups

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Dunwoody Mayor’s Smack Down

Well it was an interesting Friday morning.

A Special Called Meeting of the Dunwoody City Council to discuss the recent memo from the Mayor and City Attorney that effectively purged the DHA members from serving on any city board.  A full video of the hearing is available on the City website if you would like to see it.
The public was given a chance to comment about what most in the room felt was an illegal Executive Session, followed by the illegal discussion of a significant policy change and the mayor taking it upon himself to enact his new policy

Let’s clarify a few thing that some folks got wrong and what Lenny the Lawyer also got wrong and finally what the Mayor got wrong trying to explain himself out of the mess he created for the city.

·       Use of Executive Session: The Mayor claimed in an interview with the Crier that the Executive Session was proper as it was called to discuss litigation and personnel matters.  Well that is not entirely true.  You can go into Executive Session to discuss personnel matters.  You can go into Executive Session to discuss litigation.  You cannot go into an executive session to discuss preemptive measures you wish to take to AVOID lawsuits in the future.   There were no personnel issues. The city board members are NOT city personnel.  They are volunteers.  As Gerri Penn pointed out, no salary, no benefits, no bonus, and no insurance. 

·       Illegal procedure to change in city policy:  Our city charter is pretty clear when it come to the authority and process to change city policy.  Policy changes must be discussed and voted for or against in public session.  No one council member or the Mayor can unilaterally change policy.  Bottom line is it can never be done under the shroud of secrecy provided by an Executive Session or that these discussions are subject to attorney/client privilege.

·       Illegal enactment of Policy.  It was painfully obvious that the Mayor acted in concert with the City Attorney to put this new policy in place.  The council claimed that they never voted on approval, thought it was a starting point for discussion and finally had no idea that the Mayor and City Attorney took it upon themselves to release and attempt to enforce this illegal policy change.  The Mayor and City Attorney went even further to conceal what they were doing by deliberately not cc’ing the council members on the email that went to the 26 DHA Board members.

So the business part of the meeting itself was relatively short.  Over the objections of an obviously upset Mayor, Councilman Nall offered two motions. The first was to rescind the policy change and the memo that the Mayor and City Attorney had issued earlier in the week.  That motion passed unanimously as even the Mayor saw where this morning was going.

City council vote for Councilman Nall"s motion for outside council  4 votes for the motion

One vote AGAINST
Second motion was even more telling.  Councilman Nall moved that the city “seek at its July 11 meeting outside legal counsel for a second opinion on whether or not a conflict of interest exists for DHA members that prohibits them from serving on city boards that deal specifically with zoning issues. The council also will seek a legal opinion on whether the city violated any law by making such a decision in an executive session.”

The only person voting against that motion was Mayor Shortal.  Immediately after the vote, the Mayor left the meeting. 

Let me be perfectly clear here.  I do not care if the city changes its position on who can serve of various city boards.  I think the rule should be inclusive of all boards and not just the few mentioned in the Mayor’s memo.  If want to restrict volunteer service to left handed, cross-eyed vegetarians then discuss it in public and vote for it. 

Mr. Mayor,do not assume that you have authority that you do not legally have Mr. Mayor.  Contrary to what you said, you do not run this city and the buck does not stop with you.    

Illegal? Unethical? Abuse of your powers? Did you and the city attorney willfully deceive the members of your own Council,the DHA Board, DHA membership and all the citizens of Dunwoody?  I do not know, others will ultimately decide that.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Hold the Dunwoody City Council Accountable

 I am deeply disappointed in our elected officials.  Not only have they broken trust with our community by holding an illegal Executive Session to change a city policy, but have singled out the HOA that was the driver behind the cityhood efforts. 
Regardless of what you think of the Dunwoody Homeowner’s Association or their role in Dunwoody, the city’s actions this week represent terrible governance and a lack of ethical leadership.  If the city really wants to change a policy they are well within the law to do it PUBLICLY.  While I disagree with their actions and the lawyer’s rationale, I find the method they used to be reprehensible.
The city has violated state law, its own charter and its own administrative ordinances.  Here is a catalog of their misdeeds:
·        They met in secret (executive) session to discuss the DHA’s role.  They have alternately used attorney-client privilege and “personnel matters” to justify the secret meetings but neither of these apply since there is not current legal action pending as a result of the DHA’s role and volunteer board members are not city personnel.
·        They appear to have adopted a policy without writing it down.  This is a clear violation of state law, the charter and the city’s code of ordinances.
·        They have adopted the policy without a public vote.  While executive session allows private discussion in very limited instances, it never allows for private voting.  The city adopted these policies without a public vote.  Executive sessions can be used to discuss ongoing litigation such as the Manget Way case but cannot be used to discuss changing a city policy.
·        They have threatened volunteer board members with city and state violations if they discuss these policies publicly or privately.  Not only are they keeping secrets, they are bullying others to maintain cloak of secrecy.   This is the first time Dunwoody residents need to be afraid of their government.
Despite the legal threats, the memo that no one was to talk about or release is now public.  I have attached it this post.
A city that prides itself on openness and transparency has once again failed its citizens.  While a public meeting is scheduled for tomorrow at 9 am to discuss the actions of the last couple of day, the damage is done. They cannot walk it back (only Trump seems to get away with that), they cannot put the toothpaste back in the tube.
Here is the minimum of what they need to do:
·        Fire the Law firm.  This is the same group fired by the city of Brookhaven after they repeatedly were at odds with their city council over the same issues.  Their goal was to stifle interaction between the citizens and city boards and council. Can you say PINK PONY.  All done out of fear of being sued by someone.  I fear that the law firm’s actions here are preemptive moves to excuse the fact that they are going to lose both the Dunwoody Club Forrest and Manget Way cases (see attached memo)
·        Rescind the policy change   If the city and its citizens want to ban HOAs let them do it, but do it in public after open discussions.  Do not single out one HOA.  Treat all volunteer groups that discuss city business or have the ability to lobby voting members of any board.  That includes private conversations with groups like the Preservation Trust and the green shirted Save the Brook Run Theater group.
·        Apologize to each person singled out on the original email and to the DHA membership as a whole.
·        Apologize to every citizen of Dunwoody for violating their trust and pledge of being “open and transparent”.  Just because a lawyer tells you to do something, you do not have to do it.
The city needs to be held accountable by the State Attorney General’s office.  We created the city of Dunwoody to have transparent government closer to the people.  I’m afraid in this instance, that isn’t what we have gotten.  Lo, how the mighty have fallen.