City asks official to resign

Hephzibah commissioners are pleading with Peter Ciccio to relinquish his seat.

In a letter delivered this week, city attorney Victor Hawk asked the commissioner to put the interest of Hephzibah residents above his own and step down.

Mr. Ciccio's fellow city commissioners voted to remove him from office in November after he pleaded guilty to felony theft charges. Mr. Ciccio sued the city, but last month a Superior Court judge ruled that commissioners had the right to remove Mr. Ciccio from office for violating the state's ethics code.

"He's not going to resign. He's going to appeal," said Mr. Ciccio's attorney, Freddie Sanders.

Because of the appeal, there is no final decision and Mr. Ciccio technically can remain on the commission, both attorneys said.

Mr. Sanders said Mr. Ciccio is being unfairly punished for exercising his constitutional right to a trial.

The criminal acts he was accused of - buying stolen tractors - occurred before he was elected. The case was delayed at the prosecutor's request, Mr. Sanders said.

On behalf of Hephzibah, Mr. Hawk requested Mr. Ciccio's resignation by Monday. If he doesn't resign, Mr. Hawk will petition the court to remove him from office until the Court of Appeals rules on the case.

Mr. Ciccio continues to attend commission meetings and vote, Mr. Hawk said. The problem is that if Judge Neal Dickert's ruling is affirmed on appeal, the validity of any commission decision made after that ruling can be challenged, Mr. Hawk said.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.