He said council members already knew about the incident being investigated.
“It [the incident being investigated] was not a departure from prior actions and in the context of similar benefits [that] had been conferred on taxpayers at even council members’ request,” Monk said. “I’m happy to tell that to them.”
Testimony from former Senior Revenue Officer Peggy Grubbs appeared to corroborate his statement.
“City employees have been torn for a long time between their respect for the law and their loyalty to their supervisors and council,” Grubbs told the councilmen. “There’s a strong loyalty to the council — those two things don’t always go together, though.”
Mayor Gene Robinson again stayed away from the inquiry into the activities of its members, city staff and the police department. However, the other four council members investigated the incident related in a memo dated Nov. 2, 2006.
The memo, written by Grubbs, said George Monk, who was city manager at the time, directed an employee to violate city policy and issue a 2005 and 2006 business license to an unnamed business owner whose business was delinquent in its sales tax returns. The memo had been written solely to protect an employee from disciplinary action, Grubbs told the council members.
“It was of particular importance because of the employee, not the taxpayer,” Grubbs said. “We didn’t report anyone because we assumed … that we just didn’t have all the facts.”
The memo was one of many more she had written. She herself had been reprimanded for “doing the right thing” even though it was not in accordance with a city councilman’s wishes.
The councilmen also interviewed Assistant Finance Director Jarrod Simmons and Finance Director Danny McCullars about the incident. The two testified that they had both been aware of the incident but only through second-hand knowledge.
McCullars said he approached city prosecutor Ted Copland about whether charges could be filed. But Copland said he had represented the taxpayer in another matter and would have to recuse himself.
The councilmen questioned him and Copland about the conversation and a later conversation about the taxpayer.
“He had brought a check into our office on behalf of the taxpayer,” McCullars said.
“It was a five-minute visit. He had, if memory serves, come to try to purchase a business license, which we refused the check at that point.”
Copland made a comment to McCullars about being careful because he had a family member who had inherited a building that this particular taxpayer had an interest in, McCullars said.
The council members asked him if he had taken the comment as a threat, but McCullars said he had not. Copland testified that he hadn’t meant the comment as a threat, only as a lawyer advising someone to protect themselves.
Monk, an attorney who had been preparing for court most of the day, said he came to the session around 5:15 p.m. out of curiosity. He received a subpoena from the city, but had told them he would not testify because of how the subpoena was written.
“It references a code section I’d never seen before, which is the authority of a public fire authority to issue subpoenas,” Monk said.
After the inquiry Councilman John Spain said he felt like the investigation was going well.
However, he stressed even during the questioning that the council was just gathering information, not preparing a case against anyone.
“This council body will not make any determination of any violation of the law,” Spain said. “We are only here to disclose and arrive at facts.”
Contact staff writer Laura Camper at 256-235-3545.