The commission dismissed the ethics violation complaint filed by Tibbs on Aug. 1, stating that it was without merit.
Tibbs filed the complaint after publicly calling out Bieter at a press confrence, for what Tibbs said was a case of political payback (BW, News, "Tibbs vs. Everybody," Aug. 8, 2007). Tibbs charged that by recommending the Gallatin Group—the city's contracted legislative relations consultant—to promote a statewide transportation plan in the coming year, Bieter, effectively, funneled taxpayer money to a company owned by a member of his own campaign finance committee. The contract is worth $65,000.
While Tibbs admitted that Bieter did disclose his relationship with Marc Johnson, president of the Gallatin Group, and recused himself from any discussion or vote on the matter, he believed there were still improprieties.
As evidence, Tibbs provided copies of Bieter's 2006 financial report showing two checks issued to the Gallatin Group by the campaign for the expressed purpose of training. Tibbs said this business relationship was not fully disclosed, and that even if Johnson is not working directly on the transportation issue, he will indirectly profit from the city contract.
Tibbs alluded to the mayor manipulating the City Council agenda to discuss the issue when Tibbs wasn't present. The contract was discussed during a council meeting on July 24, after Tibbs had left the meeting for a doctor appointment. It was not discussed during the July 31 meeting. Bieter's original memo to the City Council on the issue was sent on July 20. He originally asked for a report from the ethics commission by Aug. 15.
Tibbs' actions were widely and vocally criticized by the other members of the City Council, as well as Bieter, all of whom accused Tibbs of grandstanding and political theater in an effort to help his own campaign for mayor.
In a bit of irony, the ethics commission was established by Bieter when he first took office. The commission is made up of five volunteers, two appointed by the mayor, two by the council, and one city employee elected by his or her fellow employees.
Before the commission ever sees a complaint, it is screened by the city attorney and a human resources adviser. The commission has the option of dismissing the charge immediately if it meets pre-set criteria laid out in the commission's rules of procedure.