Chairman: Allegations arrived at ‘incorrectly’
by Emily Boorstein
August 28, 2014 04:00 AM | 3516 views | 14 14 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — County Chairman Tim Lee said the man who filed an ethics complaint against him “doesn’t have a good, clear understanding of the process and procedures for economic development.”

Tom Cheek of west Cobb, who works in software sales, filed the complaint against Lee on Tuesday. He said Lee improperly hired an attorney, ignored Open Records requests and tried to hide his dealings to secure the Atlanta Braves’ move to the county by using a private email account to do county business.

Lee said Cheek’s allegations “are arrived at incorrectly, so I totally expect the ethics board to review these and find that there’s no ground to continue to move forward on it.”

Two other ethics complaints against Lee related to the Braves deal have previously been dismissed.

While connected to the Braves and their move to the county in 2017, Cheek says in the document his grievance isn’t a “Braves-related complaint. It is an ethics-related complaint.”

Cheek maintains Lee did not have the authority to hire outside attorney Dan McRae to negotiate the deal and should have instead gone through county attorney Deborah Dance to appoint representation.

“She could have done a national search for the best bond attorney (with) major league stadium experience,” Cheek said. “So just by chance (Lee) happened to know the most qualified attorney for this job in the United States? That’s a pretty tall order.”

Lee said Cheek misunderstands the process.

“I consulted with someone — sought some help in the process up to a certain point — then I brought it to the commission, so I think that’s a misunderstanding on his part,” Lee said.

While McRae’s work was done for free, an early draft of the Memorandum of Understanding to build the stadium listed him as the bond and project attorney, Dance confirmed to the MDJ. Cheek said that would have meant McRae would have pocketed $4 million in commission fees. McRae’s name did not appear on the final draft because Dance struck it.

Cheek’s complaint also claims Lee ignored open records requests for drafts of the MOU.

“If you know someone is watching you, you’re going to do one of two things. You’re going to do things right, or you’re going to hide what you’re doing,” Cheek said.

By using a non-work email account, Cheek said it appears Lee was trying to hide something because, Cheek thinks, the personal email would be bypassed by an Open Records request.

Lee said the Open Records laws are very clear that when he is asked to do a search, every email available to him is fair game to be submitted. He said he tries to keep his work and personal email accounts separate, but some people still email him at the “incorrect” address. Lee added he complies with any Open Records search and anything is subject to it.

Cheek does not want Lee to resign or be removed from office.

“I want Chairman Lee, and all future chairmen and district commissioners to remember that following the rules is important, and if you don’t follow the rules, then you will be subject to censure or reprimand,” he writes in his complaint. “I want all potential development partners to know that we operate ethically in Cobb County.”

Lee has 30 days to formally respond to the complaint, and the ethics board will decide whether to take up the case after that, according to its attorney, Lynn Rainey.

Comments
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LoveCobb
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September 18, 2014
Why does the MDJ refuse to print one word about Tim Lee's refusal to turn over documents requested under the Open Records Act ?
Remember...
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September 13, 2014
Lee added he complies with any Open Records search and anything is subject to it.

Remember

LoveCobb
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September 05, 2014
There is now no doubt that Lee chose a negotiator for the BoC without the other 4 knowing what was going on. The only question is: why aren't they outraged and vocal?
sirwinston
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September 04, 2014
It is a fact that anytime a public official lies and don't on up to the truth; he/she cast future doubts for those who voted for them. Ethics you say, in this case with Tim Lee he controls what; and even the staff. It seem to me that out of all that is said, the staff don't have any individual rights, except to be silent. That is what I see. Nothing is more degrading that we have public officials to sit by and do nothing; it is even worse when the lies are caught and nothing is done. What good will it do when you create a lot of mess for the tax payers to clean up; I can see that this whole issue with the Brave Stadium Venture is beating Tim Lee up; if he don't figure out the right way to clear up things, I doubt he will be able to continue. Stress is a killer because it is to much to control...especially when you have done wrong. No matter who, what and how this all came to be..there are procedures in place; if they are follow correctly, Cobb County Tax Payers would not be where we are to day because of one man venture to get something done (under-the-table) where we never knew he was there making big plans. Who will benefit from all of this mess...we as tax payers will because we have to foot the bill that someone created for us!
Lee is in Charge
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September 03, 2014
No one is getting an Ethics charge to stick to this guy. He answers to the Chamber of Commerce, not voters, and he controls the Board of Commissioners, the Budget, the Agenda, and the Staff.

He controls the Ethics Board too. Just watch.
Say what?
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September 01, 2014
Dan McRae doesn't know Tim Lee's email address? I find that a little hard to believe.
sirwinston
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August 31, 2014
Look around and within you will still see those in official position have taken and misused tax payers money by various methods..they know it was wrong and yet, they continue to do it. Commissioner Tim Lee is no exceptional he has been and done wrong to Cobb citizens. 4 million dollar is going to be paid out to this lawyer who said he was advising and not working, the real lawyer will get paid too. Now, we are looking to vote on continuing this SPLOST, make it your business not to; let it end because we will never know or see just where one dime will go. they can say they use it for schools or whatever; but we never know just how they will use it. If they lie about this stadium thing; I feel they have been telling lies all along long before this stadium thing was announced. It just tells all of us you can't trust those who run for office and say they are going to do this or that for the citizens; it turns out to be lies. I don't blame those who are against Lee because he admitted he lied. You take the oath of office to be open and honest with tax payers and the citizen of Cobb County. It is time Tim resign; he has for to long strung all of us along thinking we are just going to accept what he does and not make a sound about it. I will say that I have notice how homeowners and many things here in Cobb has changed rapidly because of the new stadium deal..Tim can say what he wants; but I can say I will not believe what he says because he has not been truthful from the beginning. We all need to let what we have voted for in SPLOST run its course...when it ends we can really look at it for another vote to see if it is worth being approved again. Don't say if it is not approve during November vote it will cause a lot of things to not happen; that may be the truth; but what we do want to know that all of the project earmarked for this current SPLOST are done and completed. Stockpiling SPLOST is not right and in doing so we all know that millions will be compiled on millions and the monies can go just about any direction they deemed where they want them. There is a lot of things we tax payers here in Cobb have not been told about the pros and cons of this new stadium and in other projects that is waiting to be done or in the future so we all just sit back and wait. I think it is only right that Tim Lee come forward and just tell the truth...in doing so, he needs to resign because it will only get worse for him and for any other Commissioners who sit back and let this continue to go Tim's way and not be honest in coming forth with what all of them know. When you have this type of thing to happen and you know better and yet you remain silent about it; you are just as guilty. I do know that we all are going to be affected by this whole stadium deal in how it came about and the all of the monies that we here in Cobb are about to be hit with even if you have approve certain part of Cobb Tax Payers to pay their portion. To many official I office has lied...and got caught! Here is another one.
Beancounter Eric
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August 28, 2014
The County Commission, under the "leadership" of Tim Lee, has committed the taxpayers of this county to hundreds of millions in spending to build this stadium, with a deal negoiated behind closed doors, with minimal real public imput - yes, if you are a Chamber of Commerce member supporting the deal, or an employee of a supporter, you were heard. If, however, you are like many opponents, and actually have to work for a living, you probably should be quiet and let your betters tell you how things will be.

Want the ethics complaints to subside - something which might help is for either District Attorney Reynolds or Attorney General Olens to convene a Special Grand Jury for the purpose of investigating the County Commission, along with the special purpose districts which have been established in recent years. Areas of interest should include, but not be limited to the stadium deal, the land purchases relating to the Parks Bond measure and spending related to the SPLOST.
Just Sayin'
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August 28, 2014
Oh goodness....enough already....

Let me make this absolutely clear, I am no fan of Tim. That being said, can we stop beating this Braves thing to a pulp. It is going to happen and it will move forward. At this point all you people are doing...i.e. Mr. Cheek..., is costing the taxpayers of Cobb MORE money in legal fees.

Yes, it all should have been handled differently, but it wasn't. And, like it or not, it does not appear he broke any laws in doing it the way he did. Shadowy and unfortunate that I will agree, but it is DONE. If Mr. Cheek really wants to protect the public, perhaps he should be spending all his free time and money on the BRT, which I'll bet has not vanished from Tim's stream of consciousness.
Did you read it?
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August 28, 2014
https://www.dropbox.com/s/w2yy1aup9w69sf7/COMPLAINT.pdf?dl=0

As a matter of the fact, BRT was also in the MOU, right up to the last draft.

An Ethics complaint does not cost the taxpayers money. But Lee's refusal to reply to an Open Records request cost the taxpayers over $8000.
Yes I Read It
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August 29, 2014
....and you are wrong. This will cost plenty. The county is obligated to pay the legal fees of the commissioners for those matters which are done in the course of their jobs. It will cost plenty. At the end of the day, this will not be more than an unresolved witch hunt and the stadium will get built using the bonds that will be issued. I don't like it either, and I am not a fan of the Chairman, but that is what will happen. Live to fight another day....and vote the rascal out of office.
That's his defense?
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August 28, 2014
"Arrived at incorrectly" ?

What the heck does that mean? This doesn't look like the previous ethics complaints. This looks like it has some meat to it. If you read the AJC article a few days ago, they quoted experts saying that Lee was either unethical, or just ignorant. I vote both.
baneeny
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August 28, 2014
If there was any kind of a promise between Lee and McCrae where he believed he would get 4million dollars, wouldn't McCrae have sued by now for breach of verbal contract?
sirwinston
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August 31, 2014
No, he is in it too...he will get paid but appears to be told not to say anything. Watch, that too will surface.
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