Ethics Complaints Filed by Washington Wilkes Informer Editor Naming Washington, Georgia Mayor and City Council Members as Subjects of Complaint

Published on 20 June 2024 at 19:20

A number of ethics complaints against Washington Mayor Bruce Bailey and Council members Andy Anderson and Newton Gunter were filed at City Hall Thursday morning.

Councilman Nathaniel Cullars delivered the complaints to the Clerk’s office around 9:15, which allege official misconduct by the three named elected city officials. The complaints were given to Cullars by Washington-Wilkes Informer publisher/editor Michelle Chaffee Wednesday. The complaints were given to Cullars as he is next in line to be mayor pro-tem. Protocol states ethics complaints be delivered to the mayor and if mayor is subject of the complaint it is to be delivered to the city administrator. Since there is no city administrator it would be delivered to mayor pro tem which is councilman Anderson but since he is also a subject of the complaint, it went to Cullars. 

The complaints against all three officials allege violation of Washington Municipal Code Article IV Code of Ethics Section  2-231 - Decorum, which states “ All city officials shall conduct themselves at all times with dignity and with respect for others in a manner to ensure appropriate decorum in the deliberations of city business and to reflect the responsibilities incumbent upon a city official.” Chaffee enumerated what she considers examples of unprofessional and threatening behavior.

“On June 12, 2024 Washington City Councilman Newton Gunter sent a text message to fellow councilmen Andy Anderson, Nathaniel Cullars Sr., David Fisher, Larry Hill, Maceo Mahoney and mayor Bruce Bailey saying he was coming to my house and may need to be bailed out of jail. He sent another text message saying he had gone by my house and I wasn’t home but that he would come back when my car was there,” she states in the Gunter complaint.

She continued: “The fact that he stated he may need to be bailed out of jail, indicated he was making it known he would do something illegal when he came to my home.

“I viewed this as a threat and it is unethical and unprofessional behavior for an elected official.”

In the Anderson complaint, she writes “Councilman Andy Anderson gave “thumbs up” and “salute” emojis in response to Gunter’s text message, showing approval of Gunter going to my home when he knew Gunter was angry with me and said he may need to be bailed out of jail. This indicates a lack of respect for me, a citizen and human being and condones a perceived threat.”

An additional complaint against the Mayor alleges violation of the Georgia Open Meetings Act, section 15-14-1 (see editor’s note) *, referring to a June 13 chain of text messages (view below article) among the Mayor and all six Council members which may have constituted a quorum at a closed meeting. The message chain included discussions concerning the recent vote to terminate City Administrator Jerry deBin. 

The complaints against Council members Anderson and Gunter specifically refer to online comments concerning an Informer article about Gunter considering a rescission of his vote to terminate the Administrator. Two days later, Gunter was approached about the possibility he might want to change his June 10 Council vote, which followed an hour-long executive session. 

Gunter told the Informer June 12 during an in-person conversation he was “considering” rescinding his vote. 

“I got out there and everything was a little rushed, so I just decided to go along with the others. At first I thought it might be a tie vote and the Mayor would break the tie, so I was kind of surprised the way it went.” 

In the message chain — released to the public by the Mayor following a request by the Informer — Bailey stated, in reference to the Council vote, “…one member called to rescind and another spoke to me but did not tell me they were going to. I did not give any names.” 

Gunter responded, “I am done with this whole mess. Sometimes things have happen that are brought on themselves. I hate for anyone to loose (sic) their job. If its not being done that is what happened to everyone no matter who you are.” 

The Mayor replied “Plus he is going to be paid for 6 months.” 

Gunter: “Yes. He is. I am going to stop by michelle’s house on my way home so bail me out if i get locked up. Thanks” (italicized for emphasis). 

The Mayor: “We got your back!!”

Anderson — the lone dissenting vote on the termination issue — largely silent throughout the exchange, responded with a “thumbs-up” emoji. 

Gunter added “No one us (sic) home but i will check back as soon as I see. A car there. My lawer (sic) is out of Madison ga.”

Later, the Mayor added “Newton talked to me last night and did not ask about rescinding his vote. He only wanted to know how that would work if someone called for it. He never once stated he would rescind.”

In the complaint, Chaffee enumerates what she considers unprofessional behavior: “On June 14, 15 and 16 Bailey posted on his mayoral Facebook page that I was not threatened by Gunter. He also “liked” and “loved” comments made by others, including but not limited to, his wife and daughter, saying disparaging things about me, further supporting councilman Gunter’s behavior toward me that is unprofessional, unethical and threatening. 

One example of Bailey’s comments: ‘While I have still seen no “Actual” threats other than the discussion that someone gave to her which was obviously taken out of context, referring to the copies of the text messages I requested and was provided after Bailey first posted them publicly on Facebook,” writes Chaffee. You can see examples of these below this article.

It’s not certain how or when these complaints will be addressed, since City Council has no meeting scheduled until early August. The Informer reached out to each official named in the complaints by email, but had received no replies by end of business Thursday.

 

Reported by Richard Crabbe

 

Editor’s Note: From the Georgia Code

* (A) “Meeting” means: (i) The gathering of a quorum of the members of the governing body of an agency at which any official business, policy, or public matter of the agency is formulated, presented, discussed, or voted upon;

(b)(1) Except as otherwise provided by law, all meetings shall be open to the public. All votes at any meeting shall be taken in public after due notice of the meeting and compliance with the posting and agenda requirements of this chapter.

(c) The public at all times shall be afforded access to meetings declared open to the public pursuant to subsection (b) of this Code section.


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Comments

Jessie Lynn Williamson
22 days ago

You mamm are a piece of work. You have worked as hard as possible to enrage people in washington and then act like a chicken shit when it happens. You are clearly unfit as a reporter and clearly an inept individual. Grow up lady.

Derek Anders
22 days ago

I am sorry that you and your team are having to deal with this. People act this way when they have something to hide. Thank you for exposing the corruption.

Michael Cullars
22 days ago

Michelle, your outstanding work and reporting are greatly appreciated. Please continue with your diligent efforts.

Jessie Lynn Williamson
21 days ago

Where is the ethics complaint against councilman collars for for his unprofessional and abusive conduct towards an offi era of the court?

Angela McGill
20 days ago

So where is your complaint against Nate Cullers for his absolutely horrible conduct after being stopped for a traffic violation. I believe the way he treated the officer is unethical, but I am sure you totally support his actions.Everyone should be held to the same standards.

jessie williamson
20 days ago

Well for the life of me I cannot see any threat to you by Gunner. I think you are stirring a shit pot and may have to lick the spoon

Jill Harris-Cobb
17 days ago

You're a Blogger not a journalist-you only post opinion pieces. A true journalist reports unbiased facts.

You've been against Bruce from day one, never given him a chance. You cry out he is being unethical or unprofessional yet you're aligned with one of the most unethical and unprofessional people ever.

The Ethics violation against Bruce, Newt, Andy was served by Nate, that's comical.
He lacks ethical standards, behaves like a spoiled child, exhibits egotistical and entitled behavior constantly.
Almost every interaction he has with someone with different views or someone in a position of authority is preposterous and embarrassing to the city of Washington

The situation with Newt:
You may not understand because his comment was a Southern expression.
When going to confront someone, people often jokingly say - bail me out, call my lawyer, etc.
I've heard the expression more times than I can count. I never once thought - OH, they're going to hurt someone or put them in the trunk! Not once!
I understood the implication, as did the majority.
I've said it myself. The situation was blown away out of proportion and grossly misinterpreted.
You've met/seen Newt - he is not malicious or violent in any way.

I was blocked on the WWI page for what reason? Because, I disagree with you? I asked for proof of the so-called interview with Newt. (Which, by the way, proof was never presented)
I was never “mean”. I did not use profanity.
Those were the two reasons you stated for deleting comments, correct?

By the way- policies AREN'T laws!
Everything Bruce posts is twisted to your ridiculous agenda! You always have something negative to say -no matter what he says or posts!
Just like today regarding the utility cutoffs.
This "my side" thing you have gotten yourself wrapped up in is causing you to not see the Forrest for the trees. You actually don't need to have a negative rebuttal for everything the mayor says or posts. You're quite literally starting fights that nobody wants to see.
Even the simplest of actions or posts anyone makes, you feel the need to make it into another battle that has zero benefit to anyone actually winning. If you have this much chaos in your heart and mind I think you should seek a balance through other means.

When people send you videos/posts of other councilmen blatantly behaving unethically and unprofessional - you ignore them! Why is that? Please explain.
You claim to be unbiased and fair but you are far from it.
It's as if you are wearing blinders. Don't worry though, everyone else sees it!