An ethics complaint filed by South Fulton resident Patricia Wise against Councilman Khalid Kamau has been withdrawn.
The ethics board convened yesterday for a formal hearing to determine if any money was owed to the city by Councilman Khalid when he left a conference in Jekyll Island a day early last August. A state of emergency had been issued by Governor Brian Kemp as Hurricane Dorian grew in strength and headed toward Glynn County where the conference was being held.
The basis of Wise’s complaint was Section 1-5004 in South Fulton’s ethics ordinance. A clause in that section says that “no city official shall draw travel funds or per diem from the city for attendance at meetings, seminars, training or other educational events and fail to attend such events without promptly reimbursing the city therefore.” She brought the complaint after hearing Councilwoman Helen Willis suggest that Councilman Khalid owed the city approximately $3,000 from the trip during a previous formal hearing in December.
Michael Huering, the city attorney that advises the ethics board, opined that the clause refers to instances in which a councilmember might fail to appear at all at a conference, and without good reason. Additionally, testimony revealed that hotel fees – just over $200 – from the Westin for the last day of Councilman Khalid’s conference were credited back to the city. CFO Frank Milazi also testified that Councilman Khalid returned the remaining per diem last week, which was just over $100.
Based on the testimony, Councilman Khalid’s attorney Chilivis Grubman, asked if Wise would consider withdrawing her testimony – she did.
This was the ethics board’s first formal hearing, and the second public hearing in the City of South Fulton where evidence presented has been lacking. The hearings are expensive, and require significant resources, including attorney fees, court recorders and staff members working well into the night.
Board Member Stanley Muhammad said that Wise showed integrity in withdrawing her complaint, but said that a more proactive approach could have saved time.
“I think that you have to be more proactive on your own to eliminate this time-consuming effort by going to him, setting an appointment with him, getting clarity from him,” he said to Wise. “Because it seems that your complaint was rooted in hearsay.”
Board Member Kenneth F. Joe thanked Wise for appearing, but said that there was no basis for her complaint.
“As always we as a board are willing to listen objectively with open ears and open minds to anything that is brought before us,” said Board Member Kenneth F. Joe. “I thank you for doing what you thought was right.”
“I in no way found that anything that has been presented shows Councilman Khalid had any intent to defraud the city or somehow be dishonest,” Joe continued. “I just want to say when we walk out of here and we say that someone has withdrawn the complaint, that means [Councilman Khalid] didn’t do anything wrong.”
Joe also commended Councilman Khalid for paying the money back, and said that based on the evidence presented, he was not required to do so.
Both Board Members Joe and Eleanor Ross thanked Councilman Khalid for his service.
In his opening arguments, Grubman had characterized Wise’s complaint as retaliatory, an allegation that she denies. She is required to submit her intent to withdraw her complaint in writing to the city within two days to formally close the matter.