For Immediate Release

Community Leaders Lining Up Against the Fatally Flawed Ethics Act on DeKalb County’s Ballot for November 5, 2019

[DeKalb County, GA]—DeKalb County community leaders are lining up against the Revised Ethics Act that will be on DeKalb County’s ballot on November 5, 2019. 

Dr. Paul Wolpe, Director of the Emory Center for Ethics, an internationally renowned ethics expert and a DeKalb County citizen, has reviewed the proposed legislation. “The bottom line is that this bill is clearly meant to weaken and dilute the excellent policy passed in 2015, without any convincing reasons to weaken the bill,” Dr. Wolpe concluded. 

Leading members of the first Blueprint to Redefine DeKalb, including Ted Daniel, Brenda Pace, Robert Glover, Judge Patricia Killingsworth, and Dan Wright, have joined PRISM (Pride Rings In Stone Mountain), DeKalb Strong, and Concerned Citizens for Effective Government in taking issue with the proposed ethics board changes. 

“Requiring employees to go through Human Resources first will no doubt have a chilling effect on county employees reporting wrong-doing when they see it,” stated Judge Killingsworth, who is also a prior chair of the Board of Ethics, and who strongly disagrees with the proposed amendment. “By discouraging and indefinitely delaying the right of an employee to file a complaint with the ethics board, this bill could very well result in unethical acts going unpunished.” 

Further, a 2017 study of DeKalb’s Culture by the University of North Georgia’s BB&T Center for Ethical Leadership stated that “Due to below average scores on indicators such as leadership confidence, perceptions of the county’s leadership ability to articulate a clear future and vision, employees understanding of the county’s values, and overall communication we recommend remediation for the county government and its employees.” 

“Voters need to send a clear “no” to the county and legislature regarding this flawed revised ethics act,” stated Mary Hinkel, chair of the DeKalb Citizens Advocacy Council. “The only thing the Supreme Court struck down was the appointment of four of the seven members of the board who were selected by community groups. The simple fix of those four appointments can be made, and the board can be up and running by the end of March.” 

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For more information, visit www.dekalbcitizens.org/about-us. 

The DeKalb Citizens Advocacy Council (DeKalb Citizens) is registered as a nonprofit corporation in the state of Georgia and will be filing shortly an application for recognition of exemption under IRS Section 501(c)4. DeKalb Citizens Advocacy Council is a group of community members from throughout DeKalb County, Georgia, that has formed a ballot committee to defeat the revised ethics act, which is on the ballot for the November 5, 2019 general election. DeKalb Citizens’ mission is to educate the citizens of DeKalb County about county governance issues and to advocate for informed citizen engagement. The organization’s members research topics, including filing open records requests and seeking out best practices from other jurisdictions. The goal is for DeKalb County to model excellence in citizen engagement and county responsiveness to citizen concerns. 

www.dekalbcitizens.org

Media Contact:

Mary Hinkel                                    Martha Pacini
maryhinkel@comcast.net                      marthapacini@gmail.com
(404) 312-8646                                           (404) 285-7042

Embargoed Release Until September 16, 2019 

Ethics Experts Lining Up Against the Fatally Flawed Ethics Act on DeKalb County’s Ballot for November 5, 2019

Ethics experts and other leaders in the county are lining up against the Revised Ethics Act that will be on DeKalb County’s ballot on November 5, 2019. 

Dr. Paul Wolpe, Director of the Emory Center for Ethics, an internationally renowned ethics expert and a DeKalb County citizen, has reviewed the proposed legislation. “The bottom line is that this bill is clearly meant to weaken and dilute the excellent policy passed in 2015, without any convincing reasons to weaken the bill,” Dr. Wolpe concluded. 

Former ethics board members, Susan Nugent, Teri Thompson, Scott Bonder, and Isaac Blythers, as well as Judge Patricia Killingsworth who is a member of DeKalb Citizens, have also reviewed the proposed changes and taken issue with them. 

“By forcing employees to go through Human Resources, this bill will have a chilling effect on county employees’ ability to report wrong-doing when they see it,” stated Judge Killingsworth. “Human Resources could delay an employee’s right to go to the ethics board indefinitely, which is not acceptable.” 

Further, a 2017 study of DeKalb’s Culture by the University of North Georgia’s BB&T Center for Ethical Leadership stated that “Due to below average scores on indicators such as leadership confidence, perceptions of the county’s leadership ability to articulate a clear future and vision, employees understanding of the county’s values, and overall communication we recommend remediation for the county government and its employees.” 

“Voters need to send a clear “no” to the county and legislature regarding this flawed revised ethics act,” stated Mary Hinkel, chair of the DeKalb Citizens Advocacy Council. “The ballot language sounds good, but what lies beneath it in the actual act is rotten to the core.” 

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For more information, visit www.dekalbcitizens.org/about-us. 

The DeKalb Citizens Advocacy Council (DeKalb Citizens) is registered as a nonprofit corporation in the state of Georgia and will be filing shortly an application for recognition of exemption under IRS Section 501(c)4. DeKalb Citizens Advocacy Council is a group of community members from throughout DeKalb County, Georgia, that has formed a ballot committee to defeat the revised ethics act, which is on the ballot for the November 5, 2019 general election. DeKalb Citizens’ mission is to educate the citizens of DeKalb County about county governance issues and to advocate for informed citizen engagement. The organization’s members research topics, including filing open records requests and seeking out best practices from other jurisdictions. The goal is for DeKalb County to model excellence in citizen engagement and county responsiveness to citizen concerns. 

www.dekalbcitizens.org

Media Contact:

Mary Hinkel
maryhinkel@comcast.net
(404) 312-8646

For Immediate Release

DeKalb Citizens Advocacy Council Forms Ballot Committee to Defeat Revised Ethics Act

 [DeKalb County, GA]—A group of concerned DeKalb community members have formed a ballot committee to educate DeKalb County citizens on the fatal flaws contained in the revised Ethics Act to be voted on in the November 5, 2019 general election. The DeKalb Citizens Advocacy Council (DeKalb Citizens) includes residents from throughout DeKalb County who are committed to ethical governance, citizen engagement and transparency in county leadership and operations. 

“No legislation is better than bad legislation,” explains Mary Hinkel, chair of DeKalb Citizens. “The revised ethics act guts the independence of the ethics board, compromises the professionalism and efficiency of the board and staff, and puts up roadblocks for reporting ethics concerns. I encourage every DeKalb County citizen to review the revised act and vote “NO” on November 5.” 

DeKalb Citizens has identified three primary flaws with the proposed ethics act: 

Independence. The bill undermines the independence of the ethics board by giving the DeKalb County CEO and Commission review and approval of ethics boards policies and procedures. In addition, the CEO will now appoint one of the members of the ethics board. No other independent board is required to compromise its integrity by having those under the purview of the board involved in its governance. 

Roadblocks. The bill requires employees to go through Human Resources rather than reporting their concerns to the ethics board. Flying in the face of whistle blower protections, this requirement puts the decision of whether or not something is an ethics violation into the hands of a department that is unqualified to make that decision. In addition, Human Resources could subvert any investigation and delay indefinitely an employee’s ability to go to the ethics board. This requirement will doubtless have a chilling effect on employees reporting ethics violations. 

Lack of professionalism. The bill downgrades the ethics officer position to that of an “administrator” with no requirement for work experience or legal or ethics training. The legislation calls for a significantly less skilled individual, who will be unqualified to provide employee training, offer informal advice for those with questions, or have the responsibility to report criminal activity to law enforcement. It is considered standard for an ethics officer to have a law degree, but not so for an administrator. 

DeKalb Citizens is partnering with multiple groups in DeKalb County, including DeKalb Strong and PRISM (Pride Rings in Stone Mountain), to educate voters throughout the County about the defective nature of the bill. 

For more information, visit our website: www.dekalbcitizens.org

Media Contact:

Mary Hinkel                                    Martha Pacini
maryhinkel@comcast.net                      marthapacini@gmail.com
(404) 312-8646                                           (404) 285-7042