On May 18th, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thomas Cox denied Council Member Paul Moore’s appeal of his conviction on 3 ethics violations. In a stinging rebuke to Mr. Moore, Judge Cox approved Tony Palazzo’s motion to dismiss. Attached to this blog post is the Fulton County Superior Court’s order. Assuming no more appeals are allowed, Mr. Moore will enjoy the ignominious honor of being the first City Council Member in Milton ever convicted of ethics charges. (Several past council members have eventually beaten ethics charges leveled against them.)
By way of background, on August 30, 2022, Council Member Moore was found guilty of 3 ethics charges in a unanimous decision by a panel of 3 attorneys touted by the city as being experts in due process. On November 16, 2022, Mr. Moore appealed his conviction by suing Tony Palazzo, who filed the original ethics charges against Mr. Moore. Mr. Moore also named the City of Milton and the Milton ethics panel as defendants. At this time, the City filed a response that supported the ruling of its ethics panel (but the City has since claimed it is just “bystander” and will “abide” by the decision of Superior Court—whatever that means). Both Mr. Palazzo and Moore submitted written pleadings to the court. Mr. Moore dismissed the attorney that originally handled his case before the ethics panel, and Moore then hired a high-powered attorney that specializes in ethics cases . . . but to no avail.
On May 11th, Judge Cox heard oral arguments from attorneys for Tony Palazzo and for Paul Moore. I was the only member of the public in attendance at the Superior Court hearing. (I have also read all the documents in this case since it began in May 2022.) Mr. Palazzo’s attorney gave a masterful defense of his client, citing 2 directly relevant Georgia cases that strongly supported Palazzo’s position. Conversely, Moore’s attorney presented no case law supporting Moore’s position, but instead disputed (unconvincingly) Pallazo’s interpretation of his two cited cases.
In fairness to Mr. Moore, the appeal dismissal was based on procedural grounds: 1) the untimeliness of Moore’s appeal and 2) the court’s interpretation of the meaning of “quasi-judicial.” The court’s decision was not based on the merits of the case. However, based on my experience as a law clerk (while in college), I suspect the judge may have looked beyond the procedural questions and peeked at the merits of the case and determined he would likely rule against Paul Moore anyway.
It is interesting to note that in both his pleadings and oral arguments (and in contrast to Mr. Palazzo), Mr. Moore begged for the sympathy of the court, citing litigation costs and damage to his political and professional reputation, which were purely self-inflicted wounds. Ironically, Mr. Moore’s whining and groveling before the court only served to highlight the feebleness of his legal case. Mr. Moore’s charges of bullying are unconvincing and even laughable. Rather, Mr. Palazzo has been the clear underdog in this David-vs-Goliath battle. Mr. Palazzo has boldly and unwaveringly stood up to Mr. Moore, who was strongly backed by a supine city government that shamefully and inexplicably refused to defend its own ethic process and panel or punish Mr. Moore. (Note that the City did not even send a representative to observe the Superior Court proceedings so that it might at least glean some learnings from this sad saga.) Mr. Palazzo has spent copious sums of money to secure justice for himself and more importantly to uphold high ethical standards in Milton’s city government. Mr. Palazzo should be commended for his efforts on behalf of citizens and for exposing misdeeds by Mr. Moore, the city manager, and City Council.
So what is the next chapter in this ethics scandal? The Superior Court ruling advised Mr. Palazzo that he has 30 days to sue for his legal costs and fees. Mr. Palazzo certainly deserves cost recovery. Paying Mr. Palazzo’s costs would seem condign and fair punishment of Mr. Moore given that City Council refused to impose any punishment on Mr. Moore in the wake of his conviction . . . which likely emboldened Mr. Moore to sue Mr. Palazzo.
My understanding is that Mr. Moore still has some limited options to appeal the Superior Court ruling but that it is unlikely his case would ascend to an appellate court. We’ll see . . .
Assuming Mr. Moore finally abandons his quixotic quest to overturn his ethics conviction, I predict Mr. Moore will resort to destructive partisan politics in a desperate attempt to salvage his tattered political career from the wreckage of his shameful ethics scandal. My sources tell me that Mr. Moore’s does intend to run for re-election in the fall. If so, Moore will need to shift attention away from his ethics conviction and toward some make-believe enemy that only he can slay. It is my firm conviction that Mr Moore will create a repugnant bogeyman that he will heroically defeat. And that bogeyman seems to be Stacey Abrams, the radical left, woke-ism, etc.
On Monday night, Miltonites witnessed the first inklings of this potential strategy when a handful of partisans surfaced that have been advocating that Milton run its own elections. These partisans mercilessly attacked Mayor Jamison (by name) for having the audacity to suggest that election fairness would be best served by providing an election-day polling location in each of Milton’s 3 City Council districts. Milton’s current election plan provides only 2 polling locations (down from 8 when Fulton County ran Milton’s elections): one in District 1 and one in District 2. District 3, Milton’s most densely populated area, was inexplicably not allotted a polling location. Coincidentally (or not), District 3 has the highest concentration of Democrat voters in Milton; also, many District 3 voters previously early-voted in Alpharetta but will no longer have that option when Milton runs its elections. Mayor Jamison was pilloried for his modest and sensible proposal to provide equal voting access/rights for District 3 voters. He was attacked as “woke,” “Marxist,” etc. Such accusations are laughably ridiculous but are an omen of Milton’s future 2023 political battles. Following is a link to a just published article in the Milton Herald that describes the Monday attack on the Mayor over elections in Milton:
Miton Herald: Partisans Attack Proposal for District 3 Polling Location
Historically, politics and elections in Milton thankfully have been mostly non-partisan. A descent into raw partisanship—not unlike what we witness in national politics—will be hurtful to Milton. It will shift the political discussion away from important issues, like reckless development, and toward partisan fringe-left and fringe-right issues that have no relevance to local governance. Furthermore, partisanship will only serve to further embarrass the City of Milton, which has already suffered much embarrassment over the past year because of Paul Moore’s antics. Right now, Paul Moore is drowning politically. Moore is looking for a lifeline, and I don’t think he cares if he pulls down the City as the electoral depths claim his political soul.
My next blog post will be about Milton’s foray into running its own elections. It is a shocking and embarrassing tale of dishonesty, partisanship, and incompetence. It is Exhibit A in the case for regime change in Milton. Stay tuned . . .
Advocating for Free and Fair Elections . . . and Ethics in Politics,
Note: My blog is non-partisan and will remain so. Partisanship does not translate well at the local level in Milton. Milton is best served by non-partisanship in spirit and in deed. The infection of local politics with partisan plague will only serve to harm Milton and tear the community asunder.