Today, despite the City of Milton’s efforts to contain the crisis, the Paul Moore Ethic Scandal has once again reared its ugly head. The AJC published an article about Mr. Moore’s current lawsuit to reverse the findings of Milton’s ethics panel. Following is a link to the article. I am also attaching a PDF of the article.
Ethics is foundational to good government. Since 2016, to no avail, I have been warning Milton’s City government that Milton’s ethics policies and practices do not foster ethical behavior, but instead perversely incentivize misconduct by government officials. Milton’s ethics ordinance is the most citizen-unfriendly ethics ordinance in North Fulton County. I have spoken at council about ethics and published two blog posts that explained how Milton’s ethics ordinance fosters misconduct and dissuades legitimate ethics complaints from being brought forward. A few times, I have also notified the City Manager of clear ethical breaches that he chose to ignore.
So it is no surprise that with the Paul Moore ethics scandal, Milton is reaping what it has sown. The damage to the City is real and mounting. The damage is not just bad publicity, but also mounting legal costs (your tax dollars) for the City and a huge diversion of time and resources from important issues facing the City. The blame falls squarely on Mr. Moore, City Manager Krokoff, and City Council.
There are a few interesting aspects to the AJC article.
First, Paul Moore is now playing the victim. He claims that the his ethics conviction is doing him personal and professional “damage.” And this is perhaps true. However, this damage to Mr Moore is entirely self-inflicted. Paul Moore clearly had an inkling that he was treading on ethical thin ice when he waded into his HOA’s speeding issue. His doubts about the ethics of his participation prompted Mr. Moore to seek advice before the first White Columns hearing at City Council. Unfortunately, Mr. Moore sought advice from someone–the City Manager–who lacks expertise about conflict of interest and who himself is conflicted and admitted (at the White Columns hearing on traffic calming devices) that he might be “conflicted.” Furthermore, Paul Moore made the decision to drag his employer into this ethics matter by referencing his company in his court pleading, so that if a reader now searches on the names of Paul Moore’s employer and “Paul Moore,” the ethics case appears in the search results. (I have read Mr. Moore’s most recent affidavit in this matter and have to question his professional judgment in discussing sensitive company issues in his affidavit.) I believe Mr. Moore’s desperate appeal for sympathy is indicative of the weakness of his legal arguments in this matter.
If there is a victim here, it is Mr. Palazzo, president of the White Columns HOA. I am sure Mr. Palazzo never in his worst nightmares imagined that a routine matter of traffic calming devices (TCD), supported by 64% of White Columns residents, would be handled by the City in such a manner. In fact, this was a perfunctory matter that should have followed precedent and been consigned to a consent agenda, with no discussion or debate at Council. Rather, the TCD matter was moved to the regular agenda, but even so should have been handled as a routine matter . . . the only issue that should have been considered was the HOA’s cost and data sharing agreement with the City. Instead, indulged by his fellow council members, Mr. Moore derailed the May 2, 2022 City Council hearing and pursued a personal agenda against his HOA board that resulted in his motion (approved by Council) to erect further hurdles to approval of a routine data/cost-sharing agreement . . . hurdles that were easily cleared by the White Columns HOA board. Mr. Palazzo was clearly blindsided by Mr. Moore’s unmerciful and bullying beat-down at council. So it is ironic and hypocritical that Mr. Moore is now claiming to be the victim. The current ethics debacle is actually a David-vs.-Goliath struggle. Council and the city administration have clearly and consistently lined up behind Mr. Moore. Mr. Moore is on the inside, with all the advantages that provides. Conversely, Mr. Palazzo is on the outside looking in and is decidedly disadvantaged. Despite the City administration and City Council’s transparent efforts to defeat Mr. Palazzo (including turning its back on its own ethics panel) so far Mr. Palazzo has prevailed in his quest for justice and fairness. David is once again beating Goliath. This should cheer the hearts of average hard-working, tax-paying citizens to see politicians getting their deserved comeuppance.
A second interesting element of this sad saga is the City’s position on Mr. Moore’s lawsuit. Mr. Jarrard, the City Attorney, is quoted as stating “We are just bystanders.” However, this is not true. In its pleading to Superior Court, the City actually states (on behalf of itself and the ethics panel) that City and the panel “pray” for dismissal of Mr. Moore’s lawsuit and recovery of City’s associated legal fees. Following is a screenshot of the City’s response to Mr. Moore’s lawsuit:
Granted the City’s response is incredibly LAME, so for all intents and purposes, the City is a “bystander.” However, the City is a bystander by choice. Through its bland pleading, the City has turned its back on its own ethics process and its own ethics panel . . . and by extension, turned its back on ethics, good governance, and citizens. Milton’s ethics panel deserves a much stronger defense from the city.
In closing, below is a copy-and-paste of the byline from the AJC article. It is the perfect byline in that it captures the biggest danger that lurks in this ethics scandal. If Paul Moore prevails in his lawsuit to overturn the ethics panel’s decision of guilt, ethics as a guiding principle of good governance in Milton is DEAD. Citizens can expect the Wild West when it comes to misconduct in Milton’s government. Mr. Palazzo is an extreme rarity in Milton . . . a citizen with the means (he is spending tens of thousands of dollars), the courage, and tenacity to expose and challenge self-dealing and favors for friends & family that has become all too prevalent in Milton. If Mr. Palazzo loses in his quest for justice, Miltonites will be the true losers. Citizens will be (even more) afraid to speak against elected officials. Our fundamental right to free speech will be further attenuated. AJC byline:
(Don’t forget, I provide additional information at my Bits and Pieces page that is not emailed to my subscribers: https://wordpress.com/page/miltoncoalition.blog/3531)
Advocating for High Ethical Standards in Milton’s Government,
Note: I am not including the name of Mr. Moore’s employer as naming his employer does not comport with my rules of engagement. Furthermore, I will not (at this time) discuss sensitive issues about Mr. Moore’s company that Mr. Moore incomprehensibly and recklessly raises in his pleadings. Mr. Moore is doing enough damage to himself with his pleadings; he needs no further help from anyone else. Mr. Moore is his own worst enemy. He never learned the lesson that when you find yourself in a hole, you should stopping digging. Mr. Moore is on a path to seal his fate through his pleadings. I believe Mr. Moore will be soundly defeated in Superior Court; the ethics case seems open-and-shut to me. If Mr. Moore had been smart, once the ethics charges were levied against him, he would have sought accommodation with Mr. Palazzo. He did not seek rapprochement, but rather has consistently doubled down on a losing and increasingly incoherent and desperate strategy. Although Mr. Moore blames many people, including me, for his demise, Mr. Moore has only himself to blame.
I am interested in hearing from Mr. Moore on this matter. I am open to providing him an opportunity to plead his case at this forum, but I suspect Mr. Moore will not take me up on my offer.