It appears that a political witch hunt against Rome City Commissioner Mark Cochran is over. The move comes after both the City of Rome, as well as Cochran’s Superior Court challenge, was dropped. the city of Rome issued a statement saying, “The Rome City Commission and Commissioner Mark Cochran announce the resolution of Commissioner Cochran’s lawsuit against the City of Rome challenging the city’s process and conduct for investigating allegations of possible ethics violations and the dismissal of the administrative ethics complaint filed by (Human Resources) Director (Kristy) Shepard against Commissioner Cochran.
The statement was released on Monday during the caucus meeting.
The city went on to say that the city attorney will review the current code of ethics and make recommendations on how to improve the code.
A new code of conduct for all city employees and commissioners will be created and will be “based on principals of mutual respect and recognition of the distinct and responsible roles that the commissioners and employees play for the city to function properly and efficiently.”
Cochran from the start maintained that he never engaged in unethical behavior or violated any city code or policy.
Cochran released the following statement on Monday evening.
“I am pleased to announce that the ethics complaint against me has been dismissed. At no point have I engaged in any unethical behavior or violated any city code or policy. This has been an unnecessary, unjustified, and costly distraction for the City and my family.
It is clear reforms are needed. When elected officials, seeking transparency and accountability, are discouraged from asking important questions because of unjustified reprisal, then democracy ceases to function, and citizens bear the cost. I will continue the fight to ensure that this does not happen.
I am truly grateful to my wife Michelle, and our family, friends, and neighbors who have been steadfast and unwavering in their support. I remain dedicated to serving the citizens of Rome, both now and in the future. “
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.