Hearing for Milledgeville City Council ethics complaints begins

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MILLEDGEVILLE, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Residents packed a Milledgeville Police Department courtroom on Friday for a special hearing regarding ethics complaints facing city council.

There wasn’t an empty chair inside the courtroom as attorneys representing city council and upset residents made their cases and cross-examined witnesses.

"Ever since they saw this letter, they have been working on a plan to silence Mr. Daniel by harming his business by retaliating by his source of livelihood," Matt Roessing, the attorney representing the residents who filed the complaint, said. 

The word of the day was "retaliation."

"It doesn’t matter whether you agree with Mr. Daniel or if you disagree with him. What’s important is that he had the right to say this," Roessing said. 

The question at the center of the complaint: did council members purposely remove $5.1 million from Century Bank in 2014  for "personal economic gains," after the bank’s president wrote a letter to a local paper criticizing council members.

Several witnesses, including council members and the city’s attorney, testified in front of the appointed special master, Patrick Longan.

"Mr. Jarrett asked what’s wrong with retaliation? It’s the way you do business. Ms. Shinholster and Mr. Mullins agreed," council member Walter Reynolds said. 

Defense attorneys argue there isn’t any factual evidence to prove that council members moved the money maliciously.

"He suggested that the funds be shopped around for competitive rates," Reynolds said. 

The group of residents who filed the ethics complaint say they want the situation clear up as soon as possible.

Longan said he wasn’t planning on making a ruling on Friday, but adds he wanted to do so quickly. 

His findings will then go to the mayor and council for a decision. There are possibilities that council could face a fine or request for resignations.