Judge upholds Horgan’s ethics violations

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A Superior Court judge has upheld a ruling that sitting Fayette County Commissioner Robert Horgan violated the county’s ethics ordinance when he had a misdemeanor amount of marijuana in his truck May 23, 2009.

The Aug. 31 ruling by Senior Judge E. Byron Smith specifically found that “the conduct of said commissioner violates said ordinance, in particular, not acting in the best interests of the citizens of Fayette County.

An ethics panel consisting of three county attorneys ruled Oct. 14 that Horgan violated the county’s ethics ordinance by not following Georgia law. The panel also determined that his conduct was unbecoming of a public official.

Now that the panel’s ruling has been upheld, Horgan’s fellow county commission members will have to determine whether or not to fine him up to $1,000 and whether or not to publicly censure him, both penalties that are authorized under the county’s ethics ordinance.

Horgan has already pled guilty to misdemeanor marijuana possession and driving with an expired tag, charges filed after he was pulled over May 23 on Stanley Road in his pickup truck by a sheriff’s deputy who spotted the expired tag. Horgan was arrested on the charges and booked into the Fayette County Jail before he bonded out, officials have said.

On Oct. 22, he pled no contest to the misdemeanor marijuana and expired tag charges. He was sentenced to an $800 fine, 12 months probation and 40 hours of community service by Fayette County State Court Judge Fletcher Sams.

Sams also ordered Horgan to avoid any drug or alcohol use for which he will be tested during the probation period. He must also submit to a drug and alcohol evaluation and follow any recommended course of treatment if any along with attending a session of the county’s new drug court.

Horgan initiated the appeal of the ethics panel’s decision, contending that the incident was not connected to his service as a county commissioner. It was noted by Horgan’s attorney that the incident occurred on a Saturday afternoon when Horgan was in his personal vehicle and was returning home from a trip to the Lowe’s home improvement store in Fayetteville.

Horgan has resisted numerous calls for his resignation, including one several weeks after his arrest by fellow county commissioner Eric Maxwell. Horgan also survived a recall challenge when a Superior Court judge in LaGrange ruled in August 2009 that Horgan’s infractions occurred when he was not on official county duty.