ethics board ruling

Blackshear council members Keith Brooks, Linda Gail Dennison face no disciplinary action

Ethics complaints filed against Blackshear City Council members Keith Brooks and Linda Gail Dennison have been dismissed.

Blackshear’s Board of Ethics convened in their shortest meeting yet  — three minutes  —  Thursday evening to read prepared statements dismissing two ethics complaints filed in September against Brooks and Dennison.

Board Chairman Reginald Taylor read the statements and then presented Brooks and Dennison with a copy. The statements were signed by all three board members: Taylor, Mary Lott Walker and Bob Knapp.

“The Board of Ethics as a whole decided that this complaint against council woman Dennison does not meet the disciplinary jurisdiction of the city of Blackshear. This complaint was presented to the Blackshear Police Department, Attorney General George Barnhill and Georgia Bureau of Investigation and neither took action,” Taylor read.

“Neither will we,” he told those in attendance.

Dennison thanked the board for their ruling and left the meeting. She did not return The Times’ call for further comment on the matter.

The board’s statement is correct.

No further action has been taken against Dennison regarding Blackshear Police Department’s investigation into a report that Dennison reportedly threatened District Five residents Johnny and Beverly Carol Dean with legal action if they signed a petition recently circulated for the recall election of former Councilman Shawn Godwin. That claim was the basis for Blackshear resident Wes Kutch’s ethics complaint against Dennison.

The Times learned by way of an open records request, however, that the case against Dennison has not been dismissed as of yet.

Police Chief Chris Wright informed ethics board members via email Friday, November 27, the case “has been forwarded to a special prosecutor and is pending review/prosecution.”

Dennison was not represented by an attorney at any of the previous meetings and did not verbally give a statement of defense to the claim against her. She did, however, provide the board of ethics with a written statement dated December 16, reportedly in response to Chairman Taylor’s request. The Times filed an open records request and obtained a copy of Dennison’s statement.

“I called Carol, as we have been friends and members of Emmanuel Baptist Church for many years. In our conversation, Carol told me that she and Johnny had been asked by Sharon Komanecky of Blackshear and Malayna Wetherington of Brantley County to sign the recall petition for Shawn Godwin, and they both signed. Then she said “they” were coming after me next and my reply was “I guess I will see them in court.” Later in the conversation, Carol said she had us on speaker phone. I was not aware of this until she told me. The United States Constitution provides for the right of privacy and our civil rights in our homes. This complaint should be dismissed because Mr. Wesley Kutch was not in my home or the Dean’s home at the time of this private conversation,” the statement reads.

Dean recalls her conversation with Dennison differently, according to the transcript of her interview with BPD investigator Robby Boatright which was presented to the ethics board as supplemental material to Kutch’s complaint.

“It was just a few days after my husband, Johnny, and I signed a petition to recall Shawn Godwin and she called wanting to know why we signed it. And it was a rather pleasant conversation and then she got this saying that we didn’t know what we were doing, and then it become a little bit loud and she said that she would just see us in court. And I didn’t know what she meant by it. I asked her what does she mean by seeing us in court and that’s when she told me that they had hired a lawyer, them three, with money out of their own pockets. And they had hired a lawyer and they were moving forward with it and we would be in court and she would see us in court in November,” Dean recalled.

The board’s statement of dismissal for Brooks was equally brief.

“The Blackshear City Board of Ethics members completed the investigation into the complaint against Councilman Keith Brooks and found it unfounded due to lack of jurisdiction of the city of Blackshear,” Taylor read.

Brooks’ lawyer, Patrick Brooks, argued at a previous hearing that there was no merit to the complaint and requested the board summarily dismiss it. Attorney Brooks was not present for Thursday night’s verdict.

Shawn Godwin filed an ethics complaint against Councilman Brooks for reportedly driving Blackshear resident Sharon Komanecky around on a golf cart while she procured signatures on a petition calling for Godwin’s recall from office. That effort resulted in a recall election earlier this month in which Godwin was removed from office by a majority vote of District Five residents.

Brooks was never the subject of a law enforcement investigation, but admitted in an interview with Major Boatright and later to The Times that he did drive Komanecky around District Five while she procured petition signatures. Boatright interviewed Brooks as a witness in connection with another BPD investigation into a report that Dennison and Kay Godwin had been stalking Komanecky’s petition effort.

Brooks was not overly surprised by the board’s dismissal of the complaint against him.

“I don’t think they really had any other choice because there was no ethical violation,” Brooks said after the ruling.

Brooks did, however, question the transparency of the ethics board’s investigation, and suggested the city’s ethics ordinance needs to be reworked.

“I’d like to know when they met to come up with their decision,” Brooks said. “I don’t know that that would comply with the Open Meetings Act and Sunshine Law.”  

“The whole process needs to be revamped,” Brooks added. “We can have an ethics board, but I think we need to have a hearing’s officer  — someone to run the meeting and they can sit there and listen to whatever is being said.”