Last December the county’s seven-member ethics board cleared Birrell of Pond’s charge that she violated the county’s ethics code by failing to show impartiality on a variance involving backyard chickens.
The county’s code enforcement department had cited Pond for keeping a dozen hens on his half-acre lot. The zoning law at that time stipulated that a property owner needed to have 2 acres to keep chickens. Pond was forced to give his chickens away.
Pond’s latest ethics complaint accuses Birrell of providing false statements in the brief she submitted through her attorney, Fred Bentley Jr., to the ethics board during the first case.
“Basically, I’m charging that she violated state law,” Pond said.
Birrell dismisses the charges as frivolous.
“I have done nothing illegal or unethical, and I rest my case,” Birrell said. “There’s nothing there of substance.”
Lynn Rainey, attorney for the ethics board, said the board has 60 days to review the information to determine whether to move forward. The maximum penalty for an ethics violation is reprimand or censure.
Bentley dismissed Pond’s accusations as baseless, saying he would vigorously defend Birrell.
“We believe it is completely baseless and has already been decided, and is nothing more than an attempt to harass the good commissioner,” Bentley said.
Birrell said Pond is using taxpayer money by causing her to have to pay Bentley to defend her against the complaint.
“It’s really your taxpayers’ money that’s paying him for a frivolous ethics complaint,” she said.
One of the false pieces of information Birrell submitted to the ethics board, according to Pond’s complaint, was her relationship with Carole Kell, mother of Cobb Superior Court Judge Tain Kell. Carole Kell lives adjacent to Pond and has complained about his chickens in the past.
Pond said Birrell submitted a brief testifying that she was never invited to Kell’s property. Yet an email Pond attaches in his complaint from Kell to Birrell states: “I invite you at anytime to come down, stand on my deck and look at this mess.”
Pond said his new complaint against Birrell has nothing to do with sour grapes.
“Not only is that nonsense, but it’s irrelevant to the fact that the commissioner broke the law, and no one’s doing anything about it,” he said.
The county has since revised its code on chickens, now allowing residents who want to have hens on fewer than 2 acres to apply for a $150 variance with the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals.
Pond said his hearing before that board is on Wednesday.