A judge has halted a petition process to remove former Grovetown mayor and sitting city Councilman Dennis Trudeau from office.
Superior Court Judge Robert W. Adamson ruled Oct. 7 that the reasons listed on a petition for recall application filed by Grovetown resident Allen Transou were insufficient and therefore dismissed after a hearing in Columbia County Superior Court.
The petition outlined three incidents Transou said he believed warranted the recall application process: that Trudeau threatened Mayor Gary Jones, that he called a special meeting of the council without following proper protocol and that he was disruptive during council meetings.
In the ruling, Adamson said the claim that Trudeau threatened Jones by saying “Beware my friend, beware,” could not be constituted as an actual threat.
“Such comments even while made in argumentative ways or in anger are in the opinion of this court lawful conduct or expression and not be evidence of misconduct in office or a violation of the oath of office,” Adamson wrote. The ruling also explained the insufficiency of the two other claims.
The petition was Transou’s second attempt for a recall application. His first attempt fell short of 100 signatures by about 20. This time, Transou attained the 100 signatures, which were deemed valid by the Columbia County Board of Elections office. But Trudeau requested a ruling by a Superior Court judge, which is outlined in the recall petition process.
“What he accused me of was wrong,” Trudeau said. “I wasn’t just going to lay down and not put up a battle. I have been with the city almost 30 years, 20 years as a mayor, and I have been on the council for the last seven to eight years, I wasn’t going to fold up my tent and just move on. I’ve got great dreams for the future of this beautiful town of ours and we’re going to get it done.”
Transou said that while he was not disappointed with the outcome, he believed the will of the people was overlooked.
“I felt OK with the ruling. There was an appellate process that was available. My goal wasn’t to sink money into it, but to follow whatever options were available to us as taxpayers,” Transou said. “I was disappointed I had over 100 signatures that wanted to move forward, and it seems the court took the process out of the hands of the citizens. The citizens want this, and the court decided the citizens couldn’t have their way.”
Friction between Transou and Trudeau was created after claims by Jones about misappropriation of city funds. A federal investigation that began in March uncovered evidence of the misappropriated funds.
Longtime clerk Vicky Capetillo, Trudeau’s stepdaughter, was placed on paid administrative leave and later submitted her resignation. The city has a lawsuit pending against her to recover the misappropriated funds. Criminal charges haven’t been filed against Capetillo, who has maintained her innocence, and the investigation is ongoing.
Despite not getting the recall, Transou said he believes he helped set an important precedent for the city’s leaders.
“We’ll just continue to move forward, and we will see how cooperative he is with the city council and the mayor,” Transou said of Trudeau. “If his conduct becomes disruptive and hinders the mayor in moving the city forward, then we have grounds to pursue another petition.”
Transou noted that two city council seats are up for election next year and
hinted at a possible run for office.
“I am strongly considering and another citizen strongly considering those seats on the city council so we can give the mayor a city council that will support him,” Transou said.
Trudeau said he is focusing on moving the city forward.
“We’ve got to work together and we’ve got to pull the same direction, and we are starting to do that now and things are starting to move slowly, but they are coming along and moving in the right direction if we all work together towards the same goal,” Trudeau said.