Waynesboro City Council stopped short of disciplining City Councilman Mike Harris in the aftermath of a controversy that erupted over a letter to the media from Harris that alleged secret dealings by Mayor Frank Lucente on the eve of the 2012 city elections.
But a specially called Friday morning meeting of the City Council did end with the other four members of the body agreeing to a tersely worded rebuke of Harris.
In the letter, which was read aloud at the special City Council meeting by City Manager Mike Hamp, Lucente, Tim Williams, Bruce Allen and Jeff Freeman asserted that while Harris, like other members of City Council, has the right to express his political views, “some of the content of Mr. Harris’ letter could undermine the confidence that the public has in the City Council as a body, and that the statements could mislead the public as to how the City Council as a municipal organization conducts business.”
The letter further offered rebuttals to contentions from Harris that Mayor Lucente had acted inappropriately in attempting to recruit city residents to serve on the Economic Development Authority, and that Lucente-led efforts to engage in discussions with members of the Waynesboro School Board relative to budget and policy matters should be considered out of bounds.
The letter also offered a strong rebuttal to Harris’ allegations that Lucente had acted inappropriately relative to City Council’s decision last year to spend $3.5 million on undeveloped land adjacent to Interstate 64 that was owned at the time by a major Lucente campaign donor.
The agenda for the special meeting had included an item for a closed session to discuss the possible discipline of a member, but after the vote to approve the letter, the City Council moved to adjourn without going into closed session or taking any further action relative to discipline.
The city charter gives the Council the power to levy a $100 fine against a member for “disorderly behavior,” and the power to expel a member from office for “malfeasance in office.”