The attorney representing the City of Rome in a lawsuit has resigned saying that the Rome City Commission has “behaved like toddlers.”
Attorney Chris Balch, who had been hired by the City in an ethics complaint against fellow Commissioner Mark Cochran, cited numerous incidents in which commissioners acted “unacceptable, unprofessional and without justification”.
One of the incidents was when Commissioner Bonnie Askew repeatedly shouted profane language during a meeting. He has since issued an apology letter. The tirade came following his asking for a signed letter from Commissioners Craig McDaniel, Jamie Doss, Randy Quick, and Jim Bojo stating that they would accept a compromise with Cochran after they later said that a settlement with Cochran would compromise their integrity. See below.
A second incident was after Commissioner Bill Collins was cited for attempting to “interfere with the investigation” against Cochran.
A third incident that occurred last Monday was the commissioners arguing over SPLOST projects. Commissioner Bill Collins worked last week to block an intergovernmental agreement with Floyd County regarding SPLOST proceeds. The block by Collins is said to be over the fact that his two pet projects of a water park and sewer projects were not included on the SPLOST list. Collins then turned to race as the reason they were not included in the projects. This led to an argument between commissioners. Commissioner Craig McDaniel told Collins that SPLOST projects aren’t just for Blacks, Whites, or Hispanics and the current list of projects would benefit everyone. The argument over race and SPLOST projects continued for hours.
This seems to go along with the investigation with Cochran. The commission has been split among racial lines in terms of voting with Cochran being the swing vote. The commission is made of five white commissioners and four black commissioners. In nearly every vote, white commissioners vote one way and black commissioners vote another. However, Mark Cochran, who is white, has always been a swing vote and has been the one to switch sides based on the issue.
The move seems to be one of the issues that led to Cochran being investigated for an ethics complaint.
The other was a fallout with city manager Sammy Rich. Earlier in the year after Cochran attended a governmental spending training he inquired about the power of the city manager’s office and unlimited spending ability. It was then discovered that Rich or any Rome City Manager in the future has an open checkbook to spend as they see fit. There is no current oversight with the city manager position. This led to friction between the two. According to many in the Rome City government, this issue is the one that sparked the entire situation.
Attached is the motion to withdraw from attorney Chris Balch and a settlement letter from city commissioners.