Is it a political office or a way to drum up personal business?
That’s the question an ethics commission faced as Tony Thomas as his accusers stood face to face for a second time in the last month.
“You heard me.”
“Don’t say f— you to me”
“You know what you said to me..”
That was an exchange in the middle of the hearing between Tony Thomas and the man who ran against him in the last election, David Self. An exchange that had nothing to do with the actual complaint, but was a sign on the tension in the room.
The claim focuses on the sign outside of Tony Thomas’ Alderman office.
The sign shows Thomas’ name, right next to it the name of his business, Renaissance Marketing.
“This gives people who don’t know any better false impressions.,” said Don Montgomery, Karen Thompson’s Attorney.
Debra Kujawa and Karen Thompson say the impression is that you do business with Renaissance Marketing you have the City’s blessing.
“People that don’t know the Alderman, don’t know the City, coming here as tourists or doing business this only says one thing, come to me i’ll make it happen,” explained Montgomery as he made his case.
But Thomas says thats not true, the sign has been there for almost 10 years without any complaints.
“Every dime of rent I paid,” says Thomas. “Every bill I pad. alarm bill phone bill internet, cleaning and water bill to the City of Savannah I paid.”
“This office is not funded by the city,” continued the Alderman. “This office is not to attract people, this office was established for me to be able to follow the law.”
And Montgomery challenged the Board to do just that, follow the law.
“If the Board feels this shouldn’t go any further then every Alderman in this City, every elected official now has the right to do this,” explained the attorney. “And now you are having outside business, people coming in or don’t live here, looking at this. Common sense says one thing to me. Come do business with me, im the Alderman, ill give you the inside track. Thats what this tells me.”
After hearing both sides, the 3 member Ethics Board eventually decided there was enough to hold a full hearing on the issue.
That’s a ruling Thomas isn’t taking sitting down.
“I’m not going to continue to waste my time on these two who are just dragging crap out that has no substance,” said Thomas. “We can have another dog and pony show but im not taking the sign down.”
“You said you aren’t changing a thing.”
“Why? The big question is why why not i havent done anything wrong.”
Montgomery has a very different view of today’s events.
“It doesn’t matter who pays for it. He puts that sign up for a reason,” said Montgomery. “Not paying for it doesn’t make it right it makes it unethical.”
“They say you can’t fight City Hall, but today my two clients did and they won,’ explained a jubilant Montgomery. “This case was won today the next hearing doesn’t matter. The fact that they found there was enough to move forward is victory enough.”
“What are we going to see different in 45 days or 90 days?”
“I don’t know you’ll have to ask the other side brooding in the corner over there listening so you’ll have to ask them,” said a smiling Thomas. “As for me, im doing the same as i’ve always done.”
Both sides will have a chance to make their case in the same spot, in front of the same Board, 90 days from now.