Council hearing set to decide Buschman’s fate

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

For the second time in eight months, a sitting member of the Stockbridge City Council has been notified of a hearing to determine whether he or she will remain in office.

Robin Buschman received word last week by official letter dated April 30 from outside attorneys retained by the city as special investigators. Their findings allege that her recent actions at two Downtown Development Authority meetings are grounds for removal from office.

Buschman is the only council member who is also a member of the DDA, which has been embroiled in litigation with the city for more than a year.

Richard Steinberg was to have a similar hearing in October, but he resigned from office a few minutes before that hearing was to begin. Buschman confirmed Monday that she has no plans to resign.

The council voted in an official meeting to convene Steinberg’s hearing, but did not take such official action in Buschman’s case.

Buschman and Steinberg have been the only white council members under the current administration.

The hearing is scheduled for Monday, May 11, at 7:30 p.m. in a special called meeting just after the council’s regular monthly meeting at 6 p.m.

“If the council finds that you have committed any of said charges, it will result in your removal from office as provided for by the charter section 2.17,” the letter stated.

According to the letter, Buschman voted at a March 30 special called meeting of the DDA to make null and void all actions from a March 17 DDA meeting. She also voted at an April 3 DDA meeting to table all proposed resolutions agreed to by the DDA pertaining to the city’s litigation.

The letter called these votes "incompatible with the proper discharge of your official duties as a sitting council member in violation of Section 2.16a and/or your oath of office.”

It also stated that in both instances Buschman "breached your fiduciary duty to the city and those served by it to act in the best interests of the city" according to the state constitution.

Buschman released the following statement Monday:

“I am hurt and very disappointed at these trumped-up charges against me by the city. My job as a councilperson and my job on the DDA is to create jobs and secure a better place for our citizens to live. This current conspiracy by most of the city’s elected officials and attorneys is all about politics, not about helping our city. It only tears downs our city and causes the city to spend more outrageous money on attorneys.

“First they asked me to resign, then they sued me personally as a member of the DDA, along with 23 other business people, then hired an investigator for trumped-up charges of executive session leaks … which resulted in me getting a ‘clean bill of health.’ Now they hired an investigator, without the required open session vote, to come up with these illegal charges in an attempt to get me to resign.

“The charges are that I voted, along with everyone else, to void an illegal ‘emergency’ meeting of the DDA and that I later voted to table the resolutions that had been prepared by a city attorney for the DDA to approve, without the DDA attorney even having a chance to review and give his opinion on their legality.

“The ‘emergency meeting’ was called with 30-minute notice rather than the required 24-hour notice, which is against the bylaws and the Open Meetings Act and is now being investigated by an Assistant State Attorney General. That is why it was voided by the DDA.

“Then at a later meeting we had legal advice and discovered that the passing of those resolutions, prepared by a city attorney, would expose us, personally, to sanctions from Judge Wade Crumbley, including contempt of court and possible fines, violating federal bankruptcy laws and violation of the DDA bylaws. We unanimously voted to table those resolutions to get more legal clarity. That vote included all five members who had been recently appointed by the City Council. We did not vote against the resolutions; we voted to delay until we had more legal input.”