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Ethics complaints filed against Commission candidates
JaNice Van Ness

Allegations of misconduct are thick and furious in the final days before the election, particularly in the Post 2County Commissioner race, where ethics complaints have been filed against both candidates.

Rockdale resident Michael Minkoff recently filed a complaint with the State Ethics Commission alleging that incumbent and Republican candidate for Post 2 County Commissioner JaNice Van Ness sent a campaign solicitation e-mail to a county employee at their county e-mail address and used the image of another county employee in advertisements.

The e-mail in question - a form letter that described why VanNess was running, asked for a vote and asked for financial contributions - was sent May 14 from a private email address to a county employee. That employee forwarded it to Human Resources Director Jeff Pogue, who sent it to Chairman Richard Oden. Oden then sent it to Chief of Staff Greg Pridgeon, asking, "I'm not sure if sending political campaign information to county employees is an appropriate action or not for a commissioner?"

Pridgeon responded, "Inappropriate for any political information by any candidate to be sent, distributed to the work place of county employees. Employees may be approached at their homes or out in public."

Oden later sent it to Dillard's campaign manager, Harold Greenwell.

In response to the allegation, Van Ness wrote on Friday, "With regards to the e-mail, one of my campaign volunteers, who is an IT specialist, uploaded all of the e-mails from people that have corresponded with me over the last year. I sincerely thought all county e-mail addresses had been taken out. When a friend called me the next day, we immediately sent an e-mail of correction and apology." Van Ness pointed out she gave up her county phone last year and her county computer and has county e-mails forwarded to her personal e-mail address. "I use my own personal computer to do work for the county when I am away from the county," she wrote.

Pridgeon said on Friday that was the only incident he was made aware of.

"In most governments it is understood campaigning doesn't happen on county property," said Pridgeon. "County employees have the right to interact with and support any candidate they want on their own time."

"I did not knowingly send the e-mail to county employees," wrote Van Ness. "I am aware of the provision and would not intentionally influence any employee. I have not felt the need to solicit their vote but I have received a thumbs up from numerous employees who are tired of the discrimination that has gone on in the county and lack of leadership by Chairman Richard Oden." Van Ness said she had warned Oden of using a county vehicle to attend campaign events for Dillard and Roy Barnes.

As for the picture, Van Ness said she called the employee to ask for permission before it was used in an advertisement.

Rockdale resident Don Meyers filed a complaint against Democratic candidate Courtney Dillard alleging that the Committee to Elect Courtney Dillard was accepting campaign contributions, but the committee is not officially filed with the State Ethics Commission as required by state ordinance.

In a letter to the editor, (Oct. 15, 2010), Meyers wrote, "After reviewing the required campaign contribution reports filed by Mr. Courtney Dillard, it was discovered that under oath Mr. Dillard swore he had a campaign committee. Further he swore that it was filed with the state ethics commission. Upon reviewing those state records this campaign committee was not found."

"That's all been handled," said Dillard's press secretary, Maynard Eaton. "It has been filed. It was just a matter of not being at the proper desk.

"That's a campaign gimmick, that's all. It pales in comparison to what the opponent has done. That's paperwork. This is strong-arming."

In other allegations relating to the candidates, a motion of contempt related to Dillard's child support payments to Renee Johnson for medical bills for their 7-year-old son was recently filed in Rockdale County Superior Court. Johnson is requesting that Dillard pay $2,976 of a $5,952 out-of-pocket medical expenses. Dillard was served with a subpoena Oct. 8.

In 2004, Johnson filed for child support payments and Dillard was ordered to pay $851 per month.