The state’s multicounty grand jury concluded Thursday that a Cleveland County commissioner’s involvement in a road project violated state law.
County Commissioner Rusty Sullivan avoided a misdemeanor indictment, though, because his involvement began more than three years ago.
The state paid Sullivan and his wife $19,900 on March 2, 2011, to compensate them for damage to their property from improvements to Etowah Road near Noble, records show. They live on about nine acres at 6900 E Etowah Road.
The commissioner “willingly and voluntarily placed himself in a position of having to choose between the interest of the Cleveland County residents and his own personal interest,” grand jurors reported.
Grand jurors reported that “interfered with his duty to remain unbiased in the performance of his public duty as an elected official and compromised his duty to serve his constituents.”
In January, Sullivan called the investigation a political witch hunt. In a statement Thursday, he said, “I am glad that this matter is resolved and that we can move on to the issues of importance to the citizens of Cleveland County.”
The grand jury reported Sullivan, as a commissioner, was involved in 2010 in hiring the private company that negotiated the payments to property owners affected by the project.
He turned down the company’s first two offers on his property — for $1,160 and for $7,700, according to the grand jury’s report.
The grand jury also reported Sullivan never sought the approval of the other commissioners on any of the payments to property owners, and he never advised the commissioners how much he was to be paid.
Sullivan “routinely used his position of power to take advantage of the parcel owners affected by the Etowah Road Project,” grand jurors concluded.
The grand jury in its 10-page report did not refer to Sullivan by name. Instead, he was referred to as County Commissioner A.
Sullivan, a Republican, is completing his second four-year term as county commissioner. He has said previously he will seek re-election this year to a third term.
County Commissioner A had a direct interest as a duly elected and qualified county commissioner in a transaction for the sale of his property to Cleveland County for a road improvement project he initiated, supported and was actively involved in as a Cleveland County commissioner.”
Report from the state’s multicounty grand jury,