Thompson responds to council statement

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

Stockbridge Mayor Tim Thompson responded last week to a statement released by the City Council following the conclusion of its investigation into the legality of some of the mayor’s actions.

In a letter sent to the Times Nov. 24 and also posted on his Facebook page, Thompson criticized the council statement, which he said was released without his knowledge or approval and also without the knowledge of the city manager or city attorney.

“This action demonstrates the atmosphere that manifests itself at City Hall,” Thompson wrote. “I find it very disturbing that there are those inside our city who seek to destroy any semblance of progress.”

The council voted Nov. 19 in a special called meeting to officially end the investigation, then released a statement the next day claiming that the report by investigator Phil Friduss was far from complete. Friduss declined a request to be present at that meeting.

The statement began by pointing out that, while the outburst by Thompson in March during which he threatened a council member received the most public attention, “the public needs to know there were several other threats before that day.”

The statement charged that there have been “multiple bullying and threatening episodes” by the mayor over two years, including as recently as last month.

Council members were concerned about what they said was left out of Friduss’ preliminary report submitted in August. Among the omissions were statements from a dozen or more people involved in the investigation; facts regarding the city’s arrangement with Hugh Austin who was retained by Thompson in 2014 as an assistant; possible correspondence received by the mayor not being accounted for appropriately; and Thompson alleging forgery regarding a document delegating power to the mayor pro tem in the mayor’s absence.

One city employee cited specifically in the statement is Diane Ide, executive assistant to city manager Michael Harris. Council members questioned whether Friduss’ investigation included any conversation at all with Ide, who witnessed Thompson’s March outburst and has had direct access to the mayor’s email correspondence while also being fully aware of the letter regarding delegation of powers.

“This council made a request to investigate and receive facts, and instead, what the council has received in this report is clearly the opinion of Mr. Friduss with the appearance of being compromised,” the statement reads.

Thompson pointed out in his own statement that the council chose the investigator, determined the scope of the investigation and placed no budgetary or time limits on it.

“After receiving the investigator’s 128-page report and a presentation on the contents, the council continued to seek more information on how to further desecrate my name and reputation,” Thompson wrote.

“Ending the investigation was the right thing to do. Releasing negative and unfounded personal attacks on me is inexcusable and shameful for the city and all involved,” he added.

Thompson noted that the investigation took more than eight months to complete at a cost to taxpayers of more than $40,000 with final invoices having not yet been received. He did not say what his personal legal costs were.

The mayor also included in his statement what he said was a quote from the investigator:

“This investigation revealed that some legal lines were neared by the mayor but not crossed. With all the very real political tensions that showed throughout, it is understandable that, through certain lenses, some people believe those legal lines were crossed. In this investigator’s objective analysis, though, I do not believe that has happened.”

Thompson concluded his remarks by encouraging everyone “to work together and move Stockbridge forward.”

The investigator’s report, the council statement and Thompson’s response are all available to the public under the Georgia Open Records Act.