More than a year after Sen. John Douglas involved himself in a dispute with the Conyers Police Department, the senator, who is facing re-election, is caught up in another scandal with Covington's next-door-neighbor.
Recently, e-mails of a controversial nature between Douglas (R-Social Circle) and Conyers Mayor Randy Mills came to light through www.ajc.com
The e-mails call into question whether Douglas improperly used his position as state senator to try to elicit a public apology from the Conyers City Council and a promise from the mayor that City Manager Tony Lucas would remain neutral during Douglas' re-election campaign.
The e-mails were sent out between March 6 and March 8, during the most recent legislative session. In the course of the e-mails, Douglas first responded to a request by Mills, who was seeking the senator's aid in getting a tourism bill for the city and the International Horse Park passed through the legislature, by first telling the mayor to instead seek the help of Sen. Ron Ramsey (D-Decatur) whose district encompasses Conyers. Douglas' district includes only a small portion of Rockdale County.
Later, Douglas sent Mills a second e-mail in which he wrote that he would "work behind the scenes and guarantee [the bill's] passage" if Mills would agree to his three demands. The demands were that the mayor guarantee that Conyers Police Department only leave Conyers in emergency situations and for the city council apologize "for the name calling and unprofessional actions shown during last summer."
Douglas also demanded that Lucas remain neutral during the state senate District 17 race and provide "no assistance to [Republican rival Mike] Crotts unless the law requires it." Douglas also wrote that he had "sources who can monitor this."
While not disputing the authenticity of the e-mails, Douglas on Friday accused Crotts of using the e-mails as a "publicity stunt."
"He hasn't talked about a single [campaign] issue other than e-mails," Douglas said of Crotts.
Calls to Crotts for comment were not returned as of press time.
Douglas said he never received a response from Mills or anyone with the city of Conyers since he sent out the last e-mail on March 8.
"My role with Conyers is that [Sen.] Ron Ramsey represents them," Douglas said. "We haven't exchanged e-mails and we haven't talked since January, but I don't represent them so that's not unusual."
Lucas said the city of Conyers has had no contact with Douglas since last summer regarding his dispute with Conyers PD patrols entering Newton County while on pursuit. He also said no one from the city has had any further contact with Douglas since he sent the March 8 e-mail.
"We just proceeded with talking to our other legislative body," Lucas said, adding that Sen. Ramsey and Rep. Robert Mumford (R-Conyers) aided the city in seeing the tourism bill successfully passed. "We decided we will ignore him, his comments, his actions and we will move on."
Lucas said he did not know who sent the e-mails to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. As for Douglas' demand that he remain neutral during the election, something that possibly infringes on his own rights as a private citizen, Lucas said he found it "humorous."
"At first I was perplexed and then I was amused," Lucas said of Douglas' last e-mail. "Having been in local government almost 32 years now, I'm not surprised by much anymore."
While a late May complaint from Conyers resident Raymond Ramos to the Georgia Ethics Commission regarding Douglas' e-mail demands an alleged interference last summer in a Conyers PD traffic stop, was rejected due to not falling within the commission's jurisdiction, the possibility that Douglas may face legal action from another quarter remains.
Rick Thompson, executive assistant for the state ethics commission, said the two state statutes the complaint cited - influencing an officer or employee of the state by another officer or employee and obstructing or hindering law enforcement officers - were criminal statues. The commission only covers issues of financial disclosure, campaign finance, lobbyist disclosure and state vendor disclosure.
Should any charges over the March 8 e-mail be introduced, it appears they would need to be brought by District Attorney for the Alcovy Judicial Circuit, Ken Wynne. Russ Willard, spokesperson for the Georgia Attorney General's Office said jurisdiction over the matter would depend on where Douglas was when he sent out the March 8 e-mail.
According to Douglas, he was in his home in Social Circle, when he sent the early morning e-mail. As Social Circle is in Walton County, the incident occurred within the Alcovy Judicial Circuit.