Aberdeen mayoral candidate Patrick McGrady has filed a formal complaint with the city's ethics commission, accusing Mayor Mike Bennett of violating the city code by speaking in support of Ripken Baseball in Augusta, Ga., earlier this month.
In the complaint, McGrady cited a section of the city code that prohibits elected officials from participating "on behalf of the City in any matter, the outcome of which would, to their knowledge, have a direct economic impact, as distinguished from the public generally, on them, their spouses or dependent children or a business entity with which they are affiliated."
The city council approved a new ethics code Oct. 10, however, which does not include the language "on behalf of."
The new ordinance says officials and employees may not participate in "any matter in which… the official or employee or a qualified relative of the official or employee has an interest."
McGrady said in his complaint the new ordinance does not take effect for 20 days and requests an immediate investigation because of the upcoming election Nov. 8.
Regardless of whether Ripken Baseball paid for the entire trip, which the organization said it did, McGrady said "if Mayor Bennett was speaking as the Mayor of Aberdeen, …Chapter 43, Section 4 requires that disclosure be provided 'in advance of the action' that creates a conflict of interest."
That section states the official must provide advance disclosure "when an anticipated action of [the official]… will present a potential conflict with his personal interests."
Bennett said Sunday he had not read McGrady's letter but called it "something desperate people do" and insisted he has not violated any ethics regulations.
"From what I understand, he is kind of just babbling. He is trying to make something of something that's not there," Bennett said of his political opponent.
Bennett noted he discussed his trip to Augusta openly during the Oct. 10 council meeting and no city money was used in the Oct. 3 trip, in which he told government officials there that Aberdeen has a good relationship with Ripken Baseball.
The company has been trying to build a stadium in Augusta for the GreenJackets baseball team.
"I have no problem with what went on. I was representing an Aberdeen business and that's the job of any mayor," he said. "[McGrady] can babble all he wants."
City Manager Doug Miller said in an email Sunday that McGrady's complaint was delivered to the ethics commission chair last Friday.
"She will [convene] the Commission ASAP to deliberate over the allegations," Miller wrote. "Beyond that I can't tell you much more…I highly doubt that the Chair will talk to anyone until after they have deliberated."