By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Property owners allege Covington councilmember abusing power
Petition city to drop maintenance citation after feeling ‘singled out;’ code not enforcible
Carla Ferry
Carla Ferry (right) and husband Ray Lustenberger speak to the Covington City Council on June 21. - photo by Special to The News

COVINGTON, Ga. — A Covington City councilmember was recently accused of abusing her power in retaliation for a city council candidate running against her in the 2021 election cycle.  

Carla Ferry and husband, Ray Lustenberger, both lifetime residents of Covington, raised the issue during the public comments portion of a June 21 city council meeting. Ferry said she had filed several documents with the municipal court ahead of her court date concerning a citation given to them for peeling paint on their home in a historic area. She gave each council member and the mayor a package of the documents for their review. 

“If I were a council person and I saw what was in this package, I would act on impeachment for a particular council person for their actions that have been less than desirable for our city,” Ferry said.

 The News has received a copy of the documents, which are currently being reviewed.  

Concerning the code violation, Ferry said the citation given fell under the city’s permissive codes. To her understanding, through the Department of Community Affairs (DCA), permissive codes are “only applicable if a local government chooses to adopt and enforce one or more of these codes.”

 However, in conducting her own open record requests, Ferry learned as of March 29, “the Georgia [DCA] has reviewed its files and has determined we have not received anything from city of Covington with regards to the adoption of the International Property Maintenance Code” that Ferry and, more recently, others were cited for in a “Historic Property Sweep.”

In turn, per O.C.G.A. Section 8-2-25 (b), “for local government to enforce ‘permissive codes,’ the DCA requires the code(s) must be adopted, by ordinance or resolution, by the local jurisdiction. A copy of the ordinance or resolution adopted must be forwarded to the DCA to be enforceable.” 

In this revelation, Ferry petitioned the city to drop the citation. 

Ferry said she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in March and was trying to avoid coming to address the council, “waste the court’s time,” and have the citation eliminated. However, “a particular council person continued to harass the city employees, and also tried to get them to come after me,” she said.

 Ferry said the citation was unnecessary because she and her husband already have documents supporting a five-year contract that was agreed to and in place with the citing officer for the same infractions both then and now to complete both their Anderson Avenue property renovations by June 20, 2024.

Despite COVID, supply chain shortages, three years of military border patrol and COVID deployments, and two breast cancer surgeries with complications, the renovation efforts have stayed in keeping with the agreement in place. 

Ferry said she has endured the city “coming after” her for various “erroneous and frivolous charges” since 2015.  

“They have singled me out, and I’m tired of it, and I want relief from it,” Ferry said. “I don’t want anybody to ever come after me again from the city. 

“I don’t feel like we can have this in our governing official,” she added. “I think the judgement of this person needs to be in question, and she needs to be impeached for the process.” 

 Following their comments, Ferry and Lustenberger left the meeting. During time for council member comments, Councilwoman Susie Keck spoke on the allegations.

“Well, I’m the impeachable council person,” Keck said. “And I’m sorry she left the room because I would like to say that I’m very sorry to hear that she has an aggressive breast cancer. 

“I did not go after her,” she continued. “I went after her house, and I have been after that house ever since I have been on this council, as I go after anybody that is out of code.”

 Keck said Ferry had promised the previous mayor and council that if the city allowed her to keep a gazebo that she would paint the house within six months.

“That was in 2019,” Keck said. “So, she thinks because I have reminded the city over and over that nothing has been done with that house, but now she is starting to work on it, she thinks I’m coming after her personally. And that is not the case. If you know me, you know that’s not me.”

Ferry said there was no such agreement in place, with verified documents to prove that a five-year plan requested by the city on April 1, 2019, in a Property Maintenance Violation letter prompted an agreement between the current citing officer, former city planner, and the property owners, was set in place to begin the work on the house on June 20, 2019.  Updates were given to the city of the progress up until co-owner Lustenberger deployed for Border Patrol three months later, she said. 

Ferry is a former candidate for Covington City Council, whose 2021 campaign against incumbent Keck for East Ward Post 1 was a close race.

Also during the time for council member comments, Councilman Kenneth Morgan addressed the issue briefly. 

“I’m not going to continue to go on about this, but I do know there are some issues that I feel like need to be resolved between the city and [Ferry],” he said. “There are some things that I feel like were inappropriately done that I think we need to look into, and I think we need to address.”

Speaking on paint, Councilman Anthony Henderson said a different person within the historic district alleged that a city employee suggested she sell her own car — the only car she had — to get her house painted.  

Henderson suggested the city should relax on such issues to better address “bigger issues.”