Brookhaven official vying for city contract raises ethics concerns

Screen Shot 2014-01-25 at 1.35.28 PMBrookhaven, GA – On the City’s website you’ll find an Open RFP for the City of Brookhaven’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan. 

In early December concerns over a potential conflict of interest were brought to our attention about a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the city’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan. Two companies are shortlisted for Brookhaven’s contract: Gresham Smith & Partners and Grice Consulting.

John Funny, Owner of Grice Consulting Group is the current Vice-Chair on Brookhaven’s Planning Commission. Funny, a campaign contributor to Mayor J Max Davis, was appointed to the Commission by the Mayor in February of 2013.

We spoke to Mr. Funny and he told us that when Mayor Davis asked if he would serve on the Planning Commission, before he ever accepted the position, he had multiple conversations with then City Attorney Bill Riley regarding whether or not a conflict of interest existed if he were to do business with the city. Funny said he and Riley discussed this in detail and concluded that since the Planning Commission deals with planning and land use rather than transportation, no conflict of interest would be present. Funny said he then accepted the Mayor’s offer to serve on the Commission.

Brookhaven’s Community Development Department rely’s on a standard set of review criteria when contemplating a planning or zoning decision. Depending on the case, one of the “Review Standards and Factors” reads, “Whether the proposal will result in a use which will or could cause an excessive or burdensome use of existing streets, transportation facilities, utilities or schools?”

At times, the Planning Commission does deal with issues concerning traffic and transportation. It’s part of the planning equation and is considered in their decision making process regularly during their meetings. It would seem irresponsible for the Commission to make land use recommendations without considering the impacts on traffic and transportation.

The Post has had several exchanges with the city on this topic. 

City Manager Marie Garrett and City Attorney Tom Currie spoke to us after a recent City Council meeting. They seemed concerned about the perception of questionable ethics or a potential conflict of interest. Other city officials suggested we review the City’s Purchasing Policy.

In reviewing the city’s Purchasing Policy,  “Financial Management Policies: Purchasing Policy which states, “The purpose of this policy is to state the City’s position regarding the purchasing responsibility and authority of non-construction Goods and Services. This document will clarify purchasing functions and outline purchasing policies, as well as describe departmental relationships, responsibilities and participation in the procurement cycle.”

The Policy defines an appointed Commission Member or Board Member as an “Official.

  • GG. OFFICIAL means any elected or appointed person who holds office or serves in a position of public capacity.

Also included in the Purchasing Policy is a section that addresses Conflicts of Interests.

  • A. Employee Conflict of Interest: It shall be unethical for any City of Brookhaven Employee, Official or Agent to transact any business or participate directly or indirectly in a procurement Contract when the Employee or Official knows that: 
    1. The Employee, Official or Agent or any member of the Employee, Official or Agent’s immediate family has a substantial interest or financial interest pertaining to the procurement Contract, except that the purchase of Goods and Services from businesses which a member of the City Council or other City of Brookhaven Employee has a financial interest is authorized as per O.C.G.A. § 36-1-14, or the procurement Contract is awarded pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 45-10-22 and § 45-10-24, or the transaction is excepted from said restrictions by O.C.G.A. § 45-10-25, interpreting such statutes as if they were applicable to a municipality. 
    2. Any other person, business or organization with whom the Employee, Official, Agent or any member of an Employee, Official or Agent’s immediate family is negotiating or has an arrangement concerning prospective employment is involved in the procurement Contract. 
    3. An Employee, Official, Agent or any member of an Employee, Official or Agent’s immediate family who holds a substantial interest or financial interest in a disclosed blind trust shall not be deemed to have a conflict of interest with regard to matters pertaining to that substantial interest or financial interest. 

All Vendors may be asked to sign a disclosure document indicating any connection to or with a City of Brookhaven Employee or Elected Official.

What do you think? Should a sitting city official be allowed to bid on city contracts?

Tell us below in comments.

19 Responses to Brookhaven official vying for city contract raises ethics concerns

  1. Looks like the purchasing policy pretty much says it all. I wonder if he was told he could get the contract before the city was a city.

  2. Looks pretty cut and dry. I wonder how this one will play out.

  3. Thing is if Riley told him he would be cool and now he is not can't Funny now have a case against the atty? Seems like Funny wasn't trying to do anything wrong because he asked early on if it was a problem.

  4. Appears pretty straight forward to me. Grice Consulting should be removed from the list for consideration. Seems that Mr. Riley's advise has once again been incorrect.

    Now, what about Calvin,Giordano & Assoc. being on the short list for the Comprehensive Plan contract? I realize that the circumstances are totally different but given past history it doesn't smell any better.

  5. Looks like Funny did the right thing by disclosing the information up front, and getting clearance that everything was on the up and up.

  6. @Guest

    Or maybe let him recuse himself from the planning commission if he is awarded the contract…

    • How about Mr. Funny fulfilling his obligation to the Planning Commission and forgoing public bids in Brookhaven until his term is complete plus a couple of years afterwards to insure no impropriety. Wouldn’t Brookhaven want to live up to that ethics award they were given last year?

      By the way, just how can a city with no track record receive an ethics award? That in itself appears very odd.

  7. Transparency My Behi

    It seems as if the issue here is not the good intentions or innocence of Mr. Funny. The Mayor and City Manager know good and well what THEY are wanting to accomplish here. Promises Made or Promises Broken? Even if Mr. Funny recuses himself the end result will be the same.

    This is NOT what was promised to the citizens of Brookhaven! Wake up people!

  8. Brookhaven got an ethics award? Holy…..!!!!

    • Here is a link to the press release from Brookhaven about their award. http://brookhavenga.gov/home/showdocument?id=176 I am not sure what the value of an award from the Georgia Municipal Association is. It apparently is a membership organization that caters to and promotes more government, education on governing and how to generate revenue. I find it hard to believe that they would call out one of their members for unethical behavior. If they cater to counties I bet DeKalb has a hallway full of their awards.

      Regarding the revenue generating statement above, remember, government doesn’t create sources of income or a revenue stream. Government legislates their income and occasionally does so at the expense and dissatisfaction of its citizens.

  9. Maybe there is an ethical reason to not accept donations from potential vendors. Makes the smell test more difficult to pass

    • I do seem to remember substantial discussion of just such details during the referendum and initial elections.

      Also, as for mr. riley's opinion, since there was no intent to open an adult establishment, there was obviously no reason for concern.

  10. Please explain to me how the leadership of the City of Brookhaven is better than that of unincorporated Dekalb County.

  11. To respond to the "ethics award" comment, I would like to clarify that the city of Brookhaven did not receive an "ethics award." It received certification as a City of Ethics for adopting an ethics ordinance that passed review by a panel of city attorneys for meeting standards established by attorneys and members of the business community.
    http://www.gmanet.com/CitiesOfEthics.aspx?CNID=19
    The designation does not convey a message of support for past behavior for any city, county or organization that has acheived the designation, but says the government has put in place guidelines, procedures and due process for dealing with ethics complaints. Enforcement of the ethics ordinance, like any local ordinance, is left to the local community.

    Amy Henderson, Georgia Municipal Association

    • Thanks Amy. This is great information for our readers. Thanks for following The Brookhaven Post!

    • Amy, thank you for the clarification. As a community our challenge is getting our elected and unelected officials as well as those appointed to various boards, commissions, authorities and committees to listen to the voice of the citizens instead of these select few.

  12. It is always a great gift for a city to get certified as a city of ethics after joining the Georgia Municipal Association. Brookhaven did join the GMA didn't they?

  13. Yup – It is costing us $25,000.00 per year for the membership.

  14. I can put in enough time and money to get certified as whatever, but does that mean or guarantee I will be or do what I am certified for? NO, it doesn't. Nothing anymore is about public service but rather private profit. Connections, connections connections!

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