by Emily Lewy
An investigator by the name of Jennifer Keaton from One Mediation was hired by “the City” to investigate allegations of abuse of authority and retaliation against a City Employee. Based on the biased opinions and astounding findings in Keaton’s three reports, it appears that she was hired to recommend that Johnny Ariemma be removed from the council.
Keaton never waivers from the premise that Ariemma is guilty; however, she may begin to suspect the truth by report number three. A cautionary statement was placed on the front page bottom of the Third Report dated February 8, 2011. Notice to Mayor and Council: This Document is provided to you with the specific understanding that you are not to form any conclusions based on this report or prior reports or discuss the content of the reports with anyone. I can hardly wait to find out what she was paid for this project.
The whole mess started when Councilman Ariemma’s permits were approved to construct a building in downtown Dahlonega. No special approval or zoning changes were needed. Once construction was underway, parking for construction and materials delivery proved to be an issue.
On September 20, 2010, two parking tickets were issued for contractor vehicles parked on the sidewalk. Ariemma complained about the parking tickets and the limited parking. He asked Code Enforcement Officer Tim Martin if he liked his job and stated that over the last three weeks he had seen a different side of him and this was not the Tim Martin he knows.
Although Ariemma complained about parking tickets issued to his contractors, he actually paid them all himself. It is interesting that during a time when the City needs all the business it can get, the City was unwilling to work with contractors trying to get work done.
Ariemma told the Code Enforcement Officer that since he has realized parking was such a problem, he would make sure more was available before investing in another development. He informed City Manager Bill Lewis that he intended to discuss parking issues with other council members at their next meeting. As a sitting member of the council, Ariemma had a duty to bring up such issues.
On September 21, the day after writing the parking tickets, Martin asked Department Head, Chris Head, if he might be in trouble for writing them. Ms Head called in City Manager Bill Lewis who reassured Martin that his job was not in jeopardy and that Lewis himself was the only one who could fire Martin. Those are the facts elicited from Keaton’s three reports totaling 34 pages plus exhibits.
Quoting Keaton, “After this meeting, Lewis became more concerned about the earlier call from Ariemma. To him, it appeared that Ariemma was attempting to intimidate an employee from performing his work duties. … Further, Lewis was concerned that Ariemma was using his position as a Council member to mitigate the parking tickets which Ariemma suggested hurt his business interests… In short, Lewis became very concerned about what Ariemma had said and done that suggested retaliation against a City employee and abuse of authority … Therefore, he sought advice of legal counsel.”
Based on Keaton’s report, Lewis had reinterpreted the facts. However, Keaton found no evidence that Martin or Lewis had any motivation to fabricate allegations. And then, she simply chose to not believe Ariemma in spite of all evidence to the contrary.
Keaton’s first report was responsible for stampeding the Council to publicly accuse and threaten a fellow Council member.
After writing two reports in which the facts were stretched to justify a predetermined conclusion, she was asked to write a third after recorded conversations were made available. When Keaton heard taped statements of Martin repeatedly telling Ariemma that he was not threatened by any of Ariemma’s comments, she discussed the taped statements with Martin and decided that the man did not understand the meaning of the word “threaten.”
Keaton refused to acknowledge Martin’s very clear, taped statement that Bill Lewis must be responsible for information in her report that she attributed to Martin.
Keaton described Martin as a victim even though he voluntarily went into Ariemma’s home to discuss what was going on. Her report ignored the fact that Martin was clearly reading her report as Ariemma taped a 39 minute recording. She accused Ariemma of misrepresenting what was in the report even though he was the only person who had provided an opportunity for Martin to see and read it. She found Ariemma’s plea for Martin to clear his name by telling the truth be a effort to manipulate a “victim.”
Keaton concludes that Ariemma’s recording of his conservation with Martin was “covert” and further evidence of retaliatory motives. She ignores the fact that the recording was necessary to challenge her report of threats and requests for intervention by the City Manager. She concludes that Ariemma’s refusal to talk with her after the second report was evidence of having something to hide. This in spite of the fact that in the prior reports she had distorted the facts and everything he said to discredit him.
In the February 8 report, Keaton for the first time brings in allegations of violating the city’s Ethics Code section relative to using coercion for financial benefit. Yet, no evidence of financial benefit has been presented in spite of all her efforts to create an illusion of such benefits.
At the end of the February 8 report, Jennifer Keaton finally admits that this is her interpretation of events. My own interpretation of those same events is that she was hired to discredit Councilman Ariemma. Her statement of facts leads me to believe that City Manager Bill Lewis orchestrated this witch hunt. While Code Enforcement Officer Tim Martin had no reason to fear being fired by a council member, he did have reason to fear being fired by the City Manager. Martin could not call his boss a liar.
Martin necessarily backpedaled after being caught on tape stating that the accusations against Ariemma should be credited to Lewis. He was indeed in fear of losing his job. A taped conversation with Martin was the only way Ariemma could bring out the truth and disprove Keaton’s creative narrative and Lewis’s reinterpretation of the facts.
The Dahlonega City Council was deceived instead of informed by this investigation. It remains to be seen how they will resolve the mess in which they find themselves.
When the “city” chose to spend public funds to have me bullied and harassed by a private investigator for my accusations of impropriety with public records, there was NEVER any attempt to get the truth. Only to distort the truth and to publicly discredit me. If any one at the city had had any sincere interest in getting the truth about my issues, they could have just called me and asked me to come in and talk about it. And they could have saved the public expense of paying an investigator to not do anything. This issue of paying Ms Keaton to not be fair sounds familiar. I guarantee you if this were to go to trial, the culprit would be the city manager Lewis – not Ariemma or Tim Martin.