Backyard Chickens founder cites commissioner's actions in ethics complaint
by Jon Gillooly
October 25, 2012 12:41 AM | 4466 views | 12 12 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Joseph Pond  (MDJ file Photo / Laura Moon)
Joseph Pond (MDJ file Photo / Laura Moon)
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MARIETTA — Joseph Pond of the Backyard Chickens Alliance believes Commissioner JoAnn Birrell violated the county’s ethics code by failing to show impartiality on a variance case about his backyard chickens.

To that end, on Tuesday he filed a complaint against Birrell with the county’s seven-member ethics board, which is chaired by Mike Patellis.

Birrell referred comments to Lynn Rainey, attorney for the ethics board.

Rainey said he was reviewing the documents to determine whether they met the threshold of a complaint. The ethics code requires anyone who files a complaint to file affidavits supported by personal knowledge of the topic at hand to prevent someone from filing without substance, he said.

“What I have been forwarded by the clerk thus far is not supported by any affidavits based on personal knowledge, so I question whether a complaint has been filed,” Rainey said.

At the same time, Rainey said Pond has informed him he intends to send more information.

Rainey said he expects to know more as to when the ethics board would consider Pond’s accusations by early next week.

The maximum penalty for an ethics violation is reprimand or censure, he said.

Quoting from the county’s code, Pond said, “No officer shall give preferential treatment to any person.”

The county’s code enforcement department cited Pond last year for keeping a dozen hens on his half-acre property. The county requires two acres to keep chickens.

He maintains — and has included a number of emails he says support his argument — that Birrell collaborated with his neighbor, Carole Kell, mother of Cobb Superior Court Judge Tain Kell, to prevent him from obtaining a variance.

“She failed to show impartiality,” Pond said. “She gave preferential treatment to Carole Kell by working against my variance request.”

Pond said the results of an Open Records Request show that when it came to people opposing backyard chickens, Birrell alerted them by email to the opportunity to speak out on the matter during the public comment portion of the commission’s meeting. Yet she remained silent when supporters of backyard chickens emailed her.

“She told people who opposed the hearing they had the opportunity to speak,” Pond said. “She should have shared the same information with those that supported chickens and those that didn’t support chickens. She didn’t show impartiality.”
Comments
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top cat
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October 26, 2012
Why the requirement of 2 acres for chickens?

Why not 2/3 of an acre, or 1 acre, or 1 and 1/2 acre or why not 3 or 4 acres or 10 acres?

How was the 2 acre minimum decided and what is it based on?

Is it based on a scientific study of disease, noise and odor, or is it purely arbitrary?

Mr. Pond, these points may be your case.
Joseph Pond
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October 26, 2012
In furtherance of its responsibility to protect the integrity of government and administration of the county and recognizing that its system of representative government is dependent upon the people maintaining the highest trust in their public officials, the board of commissioners finds and declares that the people have a right to be assured that the impartiality and independent judgment of public officials will be maintained. Public interest requires that the county protect against improper influence or the appearance of improper influence by establishing appropriate ethical standards with respect to the conduct of public officials.
Chicken little
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October 25, 2012
I can't believe these comments. The commissioner is following the law. If the man had the acreage necessary, there would be no problem. Variances should be taken seriously. Sounds like a responsible

commissioner to me!
Joseph Pond
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October 25, 2012
You think it is responsible for Elected Officials to share your e-mails with local civic groups to work against you? Is it responsible to for your commissioner to lie to you, to stalk you on Facebook? Variances should be taken very seriously, and not tampered with by elected officials.

The Commissioners take an oath of office, and are required to follow a Code of Ethics. The Code of Ethics states that no officer shall give preferential treatment to any person, and officers by their conduct should avoid the appearance of impropriety. All I ask is that the Commissioners do their job properly- look after all of their district, not just a select few.
Joseph Pond
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October 25, 2012
This is what Cobb County considers following the Sunshine Laws:

"The county does not maintain a central record of all email communications. So we have to search on the local machine. If an email has been deleted then it would not show up in our search of the local machine once the contents of the deleted files have been emptied."

The Commissioners are free to purge their e-mails of whatever they want, and no one would be the wiser, according to this e-mail I received from a Cobb County official. This is not about poultry; it's about wolves, & sheep~

Deanna K.
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October 25, 2012
Whether you want the chickens yourself, or not wanting them living next door is inconsequential here. This is about your Country's Laws and due process. We must hold our elected officials responsible for the choices and actions they make. If we continue to allow them to slip on how to govern we will all slide down the hill quicker and quicker until we have no rights left. From my understanding it takes an enormous amount of effort to even file the claim. That in itself should be a red flag and warning sign.
onlycritter1968
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October 25, 2012
I don't want stinky barnyard/farm animals in my backyard. Send them to "AaronBP"'s house.
AtlantaResident
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October 25, 2012
Chickens don't smell. Chicken houses smell, and a dozen backyard chickens does not a chicken house make. With good bedding they don't smell any different from a parrot in a cage.
AaronBP
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October 25, 2012
Please change title to "County Commissioner Targets Taxpayer trying to Feed Family"

ERIK WELLS
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October 25, 2012
MDJ Please fix this headline. Mr. Pond does not "TARGET" anyone. Why did you do that? It is sensationalist and unnecessarily hostile. Change it.
Ohnoooo
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October 25, 2012
I hope her goose isn't cooked :0)
JoanS
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October 25, 2012
I agree with Aaron and Erik, he is defending himself again HER. Onylycritter, you dont have to want them yourself, but you should be able to have them if you see fit. What if you were told you couldnt have a car, or a dog, or fruit trees? Where does it stop? This is not just about chickens, this is about OUR RIGHTS which the government seems to want to take away!!! This is about a elected official, abusing their power and not being objective.
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