The Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia has dismissed a UGA researcher’s call to criminally investigate ACC Manager Blaine Williams’ alleged interference in an open records request in 2018.
This is part of the ongoing controversy surrounding ACC Internal Auditor Stephanie Maddox which began when she accused Williams and Mayor Kelly Girtz of intimidation and discrimination at a press conference held by the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement in June. The same day, Joseph Carter, a UGA researcher and supporter of Maddox’s, sent a six-page open letter to District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez making a case that Williams and Girtz should be criminally investigated. Carter claimed that Williams and Girtz interfered in Maddox’s formal request for information on the local government’s 2018 wage study, which would be a misdemeanor offense.
Carter later sent this request to ACC Solicitor General C. R. Chisholm as well. Chisholm asked the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia to review the accusation, which they did, sending him back a one-page report explaining why such a case would have no legal merit.
The Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council weighs in
The council states that it would be “difficult or impossible” to prove that Williams or Girtz intended to interfere with Maddox’s open records request, which would be necessary for a successful prosecution. Furthermore, the statute of limitations, which is two years in this case, has already expired.
“For these reasons, there is not a prosecutable offense available,” the council concludes.
The council’s summary of the legal merits of the case is short and to the point, completely ending any hopes Maddox’s supporters may have had for a criminal investigation. However, the council spends a bit more time discussing Maddox’s discrimination complaint itself. Interestingly, they cite the ACC government-directed independent investigation into this complaint, even though the investigation’s report has not yet been released to the public. Chisholm apparently included a draft version of the report in the packet he sent to the council.
The council states that the “report found no evidence of sexual or racial animus against Ms. Maddox” but instead found “evidence of a hostile work environment in the city auditor’s office created by Ms. Maddox (emphasis added).”
The council doesn’t discuss the hostile work environment in Maddox’s office any further, but this revelation could explain why both of Maddox’s employees left her office in recent years. The ACC Office of Operational Analysis remains without employees beyond Maddox herself to this day.
Furthermore, the investigation says that Maddox originally filed her open records request not as part of any official business related to her work as auditor, but because she “wanted the information to support her personal request for a raise,” according to the council.
What happens next?
The final chapter of this story can’t be told until the independent investigation’s report is released to the public. It’s unclear why this is taking so long. The report is apparently complete enough to state definitively that neither Williams nor Girtz discriminated on the basis or race or sex in their interactions with Maddox.
Even so, this doesn’t mean Williams and Girtz did nothing wrong, since we still don’t know the full details of what happened. According to the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council, these local officials did nothing that would justify legal action at this time, but no one in the local government has given an official statement on this topic. It’s unclear why there is so much hesitancy to address an issue which has been ongoing for months in the public eye and almost three years in private.
Stay tuned — APN will continue to report on this story as it progresses.
CORRECTION: (9/17/21) This article originally stated that the EEOC’s investigation report had not yet been made public. This was an error. It is the ACC government-directed independent investigation that hasn’t been made public yet.