By Gerhard Schneibel
gerhard@reporternewspapers.net

Sandy Springs Planning Commission member Robert Wiley faces an ethics complaint over a possible conflict of interest between his role in a lawsuit and his participation in creating a new city definition of average grade plane.

City Attorney­ Wendell Willard filed the complaint June 20, and the Board of Ethics discussed the matter July 28.

The complaint alleges that Wiley’s participation in Planning Commission discussions and voting about average grade plane June 2 was a conflict of interest. Wiley filed a May 2 affidavit in a lawsuit against the city and Turner Home Builders.

In the affidavit, Wiley stated his opinion as a professional engineer that a house being built at 835 North Island Drive violates the city’s building code. Wiley lives next to that property.

Brian Michalow, a neighbor of Wiley’s, brought the lawsuit 14 months ago to halt construction.

Board of Ethics Chairman Charles Maddrey said Wiley hadn’t answered any correspondence from the board as of July 31.

“We hope that Mr. Wiley will come forth and lay out the facts, so when we look at our (ethics) ordinance, we become convinced that there was no violation,” Maddrey said. “But the violation we’re concerned with is he remained on the Planning Commission and took a vote when it was alleged that he may have had some personal interest.”

Wiley, who has been retired since 2000, argued that his June 2 vote couldn’t affect the lawsuit over 835 North Island Drive because the case is based solely on a previous definition of average grade plane. The City Council voted April 15 to adopt the definition Wiley discussed and voted on.

“I have not done anything wrong,” he said. “Everything I’ve said on that law case is in that affidavit.”

He said the Planning Commission was directed to develop good language for the new definition, and he researched the wording used elsewhere around the country. Wiley said he participated in “a meeting to try to determine a better way to determine the grade plane.”

The definition is now based on one used in Vail, Colo.

Planning Commission Chairman Lee Duncan wouldn’t comment on the complaint, saying it is “up to the ethics commission to make that decision.”

Duncan was appointed to the Planning Commission at the city’s founding in 2005. To his knowledge, he said, “this is the only time it’s occurred.”

Wade Thatcher, the Planning Commission vice chairman, commended Wiley’s efforts as a public servant. “Bob’s a good guy, and he’s done great work on this Planning Commission,” he said. “I think that he’s taken a position that he didn’t benefit from by voting on that particular issue.”

Cary King, a lawyer representing Michalow, said he wanted Wiley to join his client as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, but representatives from Turner Home Builders objected.

“The city didn’t object to Mr. Wiley being added. They filed no objection,” King said. “It strikes me as strange that if somebody serves on a committee for the city that they have to waive their rights. He’s a homeowner. He lives in Sandy Springs. It directly affects his home, this issue.”

Wiley’s Board of Ethics hearing is scheduled for Aug. 14, but he said he will be out of town and hopes to have it rescheduled.