DEMOREST -- A letter sent to Demorest residents by mayoral candidate Jim Welborn contains statements the city attorney says create implications that violate the Hatch Act, which governs political activities by municipal employees.
Joey Homans' two-page written memo states its purpose is "to address legal issues associated with employees becoming embroiled in political campaigns."
Welborn's recent letter stops short of stating he is endorsed by City Manager Kristi Shead, but implies that by statements made in its text, Homans says.
"Employees of the city may not solicit any contributions or services, publicly endorse or actively support or campaign for any candidate for any elected governmental office while on duty, wearing a city uniform or identifying badge, or while driving a city vehicle...," the memo states.
The portion of Welborn's letter that concerns Homans states, "I have met with our city manager and seen the painstaking work that she has done in getting our bills paid and our finances once again in an order. If elected, I look forward to working alongside our city manager to continue strengthening our finances and government."
Homans says those statements were made without the knowledge of or authorization by Shead, adding the federal Hatch Act also prohibits political activities of certain employees and officers employed by a municipality if the United States or a federal agency finances activities of the municipality in whole or in part.
That statement can be interpreted to mean a municipality that receives federal grant or other funding, such as USDA low-interest loans.
"The references to the city manager set forth in Mr. Welborn's letter do not specifically assert that the city manager endorses any candidate, but the statements could be construed as an endorsement, which is prohibited by the city's personnel policies and the Hatch Act," Homans' memo states.
Further clarifying the matter, Homans' memo states Shead did not violate city policy or any local, state or federal laws.
"Ms. Shead did not take an active part in any political campaign, so no action is necessary," Homans' memo states.