Councilwoman and City Attorney leaked privileged information, report concludes

Councilwoman Adrian Bonser and City Attorney Brian Anderson named in independent investigation.

City Councilwoman Adrian Bonser and City Attorney Brian Anderson were responsible for leaking information from city executive sessions about a Georgetown redevelopment project they didn't support, according to the report from an independent investigation of the incident.

The report, released late Monday, was the product of a months-long investigation by Bob Wilson, former DeKalb District Attorney, who was hired by Mayor Mike Davis.

Both Bonser and Anderson are alleged to have leaked information either directly or indirectly to a local newspaper and a popular blog that often discusses local politics.

The city delayed a resolution to fire Anderson a week ago.

City Councilman Terry Nall said the leaks harm the city.

"It creates an element of distrust among council members," he said. "It compromises the integrity of the city."

The report says that the city met in executive sessions Jan. 23 and Feb. 3 to talk about the redevelopment proposal in Georgetown that the city is currently working on with John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods.

Information that could have only come from those sessions was published in the Dunwoody Crier. Anderson spoke to Dick Williams, the newspaper's publisher, the report concludes.

Most of the report focuses on Anderson's alleged actions.

The report's findings state that he breached his duty to council, broke attorney-client privilege, and acted as a "de-facto council member" by "offering his personal opinion to the Council rather than limiting himself to legal advice as the council’s attorney,"  according to the report.

The report also alleges that Anderson changed his story during the course of the investigation, attempted to declare the executive session public after the leaks and the impending investigation, and then rushed to release documents from a Georgia Open Records Act request in an attempt to make the leaks "moot."

Neither Anderson nor Bonser returned phone calls or e-mails related to this story.

Bonser, for her part, is alleged to have talked to an unnamed intermediary who then talked to city observer Bob Lundsten, according to the report. Lundsten has a popular blog on local politics that had information about the potential deal that was only talked about inside the executive session.

Bonser told investigators that she had no conversations about the Feb. 3 meeting. However, the report found she later acknowledged a conversation with Councilman Terry Nall the same afternoon in which Nall said she "lit into him" about his apparent support for the project.

After information about the land sale was already being talked about on local blogs and news sites, the report found that Bonser also sent e-mails to two constituents where she expressed her lack of support for the project and, also, how she saw no reason why it should be privileged information.

"I'm the council member who worked to buy the property," she wrote, according to the report. "My wishes and those of my constituents are being completely ignored."

She also wrote in one of the e-mails that there was nothing going on with the sale "that could not be discussed in public," according to the investigation.

Investigators said they were misled about Bonser's stance on the redevelopment project. She said that at the Feb. 3 meeting she was "warming" to the idea of the project - something investigators said was a mischaracterization based on her conversation with Nall. 

Investigators concluded that Bonser was "attempting to create the false impression that she favored the project and therefore would not have had a motive to leak information about it," investigators concluded. 

The council meets next Tuesday, a day later than normal because of the Memorial-Day weekend. That would be the first opportunity to fire Anderson without a specially-called meeting. Anderson's salary is approximately $140,000.

He has been with the city - starting as contract employee - since it was incorporated in late 2008. He has been on paid administrative leave for more than a week.

Anderson is appointed by the council and can be fired with a majority vote. Bonser's situation is less clear. As an elected official, any move to dismiss her would follow a different process. The city has an ethics board that's appointed by council that could take up the matter. 

Rob May 26, 2012 at 09:24 PM
What if, just what if, more antics are exampled by this council and Sam Olens (Ga Attorney General) decides enough is enough and sends representatives from his office to take charge of Dunwoody unrtil all is sorted out? Think it cant happen, his office is watching, I guarantee it!!!
Peter Yost May 28, 2012 at 05:42 PM
How our city government handles its first ethics crisis will set an important precedent. It will say a lot about the standards we place on those we elect to lead our city government. Whatever happens, it needs to happen quickly. There is too much important business to attend to. We don't have time for a protracted bickering session of he said / she said. Mayor Davis and Councilwoman Bonser, the ball is in your court. I trust you'll do the right thing.
Rob May 29, 2012 at 12:46 PM
There have been other ethics violations as well, it just seems that some of the council members do what they please, when they please. Remember when Henigan supported and even advertised an illegal garage sale of a retail business (Emily G,s Jam) a few months ago? This is a direct violation of the city codes and he has been very outspoken against such activity in the past, yet little has been said about it. I did read that Terry Nall had called for further discussion on the code after this happened, but have not read any updates. These council members (and city employees) need to learn, if they violate our ethics codes, they are gone!
Milton Friedman May 31, 2012 at 08:45 PM
There is no doubt that Mr. Wittenstein was the first Council member to have been publicly accused, well after the fact, of having violated this ethics code. And I believe contributed significantly to him losing his Council seat. The then council members made the mistake of handling this matter "internally", like it was the DHA, which is a violation of their sworn oath to the City Values and Mission statement, as well as the Municipal Code of Ethics. It should have been immediately documented and submitted to the Board of Ethics. By handling it "internally" Mayor Wright, in my opinion, passively condoned the action. A very strategic and unfortunate mistake in judgment on the part of all that served on that Council. There are no acceptable excuses when it comes to elected officials. You have been elected to be our leaders and to make the tough decisions. If you can't do that then you should resign. I applaud Mayor Davis for actively pursuing violations in an open manner and for following the process set forth in the City Municipal Code.
Milton Friedman May 31, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Roland - since when does an e-mail (a physical document dated 2/12/12) constitute "he said / she said"? Between February 3rd and March 8th, when Project Renaissance was officially announced, Ms. Bonser was the ONLY council member to have and open verbal or written communication with individuals outside of Council and appointed officials that attended that meeting and had a legal right to know. It is just that simple! Ms. Bonser is not the victim here. Due process of a rightful governmental meeting was subverted and the citizens of Dunwoody became the victims, unintended or not. And regardless of whether the project actually occurs, or not, her actions have cast serious credibility questions on this Council. I will be shocked if ethics charges aren't forthcoming.


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