An East Ridge woman has filed an ethics complaint against East Ridge Mayor Brent Lambert alleging that campaign contributions received in June of 2017 amounted to a gift or gratuity that was a reward for past actions.
Laura Seneker of Germantown Circle, filed the complaint in a letter dated May 14. The complaint was filed with City Attorney Mark Litchford, who is also the City’s Ethics Officer.
On Wednesday morning, Litchford said he hasn’t had an opportunity to review the complaint.
In the complaint, Seneker writes of a June 2, 2017 special called meeting of the East Ridge City Council. In the meeting Mayor Lambert “pushed through a resolution to create $4 million in new debt for the city for the benefit of the development of Exit 1 and the benefit of Exit One L.L.C., the developers of the property.”
The complaint goes on to detail that 12 days after the vote, Lambert received a total of $5,000 in campaign contributions, with $3,000 of that coming from developers Matt Wood, Ethan Wood and John Healy. The money “comprised 100 percent of all campaign contributions to the Mayor’s campaign account since the end of 2014.”
The complaint asserts that Lambert reported the contributions on his financial disclosure statement to the Hamilton County Election Commission. Seneker states in the complaint that Lambert deposited the money “then wrote himself a check for $5,300 from his campaign and deposited the campaign money into his personal account.”
Seneker’s complaint also asks that Litchford as the City’s Ethics Officer, step aside and appoint an outside counsel to investigate the alleged ethics violation. Litchford, Seneker writes, has a clear conflict of interest.
“Again, this seems straight forward,” Seneker states. “Mr. John Anderson is Mayor Brent Lambert’s personal attorney. You are a member of the same law firm as Mr. Anderson. You have an obvious conflict of interest in evaluating the facts of the Ethics Complaint against Mayor Lambert.”
In 2006 the East Ridge City Council adopted by ordinance a “code of ethics.” The code of ethics ordinance prohibits a public official from accepting any money, gift or gratuity or favor of any kind from anyone other than the municipality.
The ordinance has a provision which states that the city attorney may request the council to hire another attorney to act as ethics officer when “he has or will have a conflict of interest in a particular matter.”
The ordinance states that the “City Attorney shall determine if the complaint has merit, and if so determined shall fully investigate the matter and take such action consistent with this Ordinance, the City Code of East Ridge and other applicable law.”