During Tuesday’s regularly-scheduled council meeting, things got a bit heated between Mayor Jan Moore and a few of the council members.
Toward the end of the agenda items on alcohol ordinance violations, Jason Franklin appeared on behalf of Shenanigans with an attorney for a first and second violation of Statesboro alcohol ordinances.
The point of contention arose from the fact that Mr. Franklin called a few of the council members ahead of the meeting. Mayor Moore said she became aware that Mr. Franklin had reached out to council members about the violation and getting a continuance. Mayor Moore went on to say that she did not feel it was appropriate because it is a “quasi-judicial setting.”
The City Attorney expressed simply that he did not feel it was the best course of action. He said an attorney would not have done that. Mr. Franklin attorney’s argued that Franklin was calling elected officials, not decision makers. He also argued that Franklin has the right to contact elected officials.
Mr. Franklin admitted that he did call three of the five council persons and that he did not feel or know that there was anything wrong with it. He said he did not have any intention of getting a set answer from the councilperson, but instead, was reaching out about the process and if continuances were granted in these cases. Mayor Moore asked who he called and Mr. Franklin said he called Councilmen Will Britt (who was not in attendance), Travis Chance, and John Riggs. He said nothing was determined during the calls.
That’s when it got tense.
Mayor Moore said she received phone calls stating that the council had already made a decision with regard to Shenanigans, though she did not state from who, because of conversations Mr. Franklin had with council. She said if that’s true, there is a problem. She said it appears to be a “deal” reached, but did not say that was actually what had happened, essentially alluding to possible wrongdoing by council members.
Councilman Phil Boyum, who was not called and no knowledge of the calls, said “Those are just rumors and I flatly deny them and I’m not particularly happy that it’s been brought up.”
Councilman John Riggs spoke up to say, “I give my phone number out to everyone. There are dogs and cats in Statesboro with my phone number. I encourage anyone to call me about anything. Jason, I’m glad that you did call me. I did not promise you anything. Didn’t tell you I would do anything for you. I told you I would see how it turned out today. Just like I tell everyone. I have never told anyone that “Yes. I am going to vote so-and-so tomorrow.” Never have told anybody that. I will always sit and hear the arguments for and against before I ever make any decision. I have never told anyone. I don’t care how clear it is the way that we should vote, I have never said I will vote so-and-so for you. And Jason can attest to that. I did not tell him I would vote. I would say that Jason spoke to me as a business owner. He’s not my constituent. He’s my friend and a business owner. I take what you had to say into consideration but I will always take all sides into consideration before I make a decision. I see no problem with you calling me, just like anybody else in this room. I see no problem with anybody calling me.”
Councilman Travis Chance said, “First of all, Mayor, I think it’s entirely opportunistic and a little bit inappropriate to assume simply by a phone call being made and a rumor being told to you that a decision was already made. Now if that’s what you feel, that’s entirely in your purview. However, Jason Franklin on record and under oath called and asked me had we ever done it in the past, which he just referenced, and I said ‘I don’t know.’ He said, ‘Would you have a problem with it?’And I responded, “The best thing that I can tell you is to have your attorney ask for it.” Whatever council does is what they do.”
He asked Jason Franklin if that was the conversation they had, and Mr. Franklin affirmed.
Frustrated, Councilman Chance went on to say: “Verbatim. Don’t cast dispersion simply because of what you’ve been told and what you’re trying to do and not do on this council. That’s wrong. Period. “
He and Mayor Moore then had a heated exchange where Councilman Chance asked if he was supposed to reject calls from citizens to avoid rumors. The exchange ended with Councilman Chance saying, “I don’t give a rats behind about what the perception of what you got on a phone call. My point is that you basically alleged that two council members already made a decision and were going to skew this hearing when that is not the case. That is no different than trying to pass two alcohol ordinances by saying one is more permissive for under 21 and one is more permissive for over 21. That is purely posturing on a political basis when you are trying to push an agenda. That is not what the case was and I take exception with it. That’s ridiculous.”
Mayor Moore said she had no political agenda.
Councilman Phil Boyum asked if every single rumor would now be put forth and discussed in a public forum because she received a phone call, which he said would “not be appropriate.”
The meeting then went on to the next order of business.