Vote NO November 5th
Language that will appear on the ballot:
“Shall the Act be approved which revises the Board of Ethics for DeKalb County?”
Don’t be fooled! This language is misleading and not descriptive!
The 2019 Ethics Bill (SB7) passed by the legislature guts the DeKalb Ethics Board. SB7 threatens the independence of the Board of Ethics and the effectiveness of the Ethics Office. Here are a few of our concerns:
The ethics office provides important INDEPENDENT checks & balances, so its operations should be under the sole authority of the Ethics Board, not involving the review and approval of the CEO and County Commission as outlined in SB7.
An INDEPENDENT professional with a legal background and specific expertise in ethics should lead the ethics office, and an INDEPENDENT Board should oversee the ethics officer’s work. By downgrading the position as proposed in SB7, the county will be left without an independent professional to provide the necessary training to county employees and to evaluate complaints.
INDEPENDENT processes from the county mean that everyone is on an equal playing field, but SB7 requires that county employees, prior to filing an ethics complaint regarding an immediate supervisor, exhaust all administrative remedies available through Human Resources ….the very same human resources department that participated in the redirection of federal workforce development funds to pay staff, rather than for its intended purpose of training DeKalb citizens. This surely will chill the filing of ethics complaints and impede review by the board of ethics.
Under the proposed revisions, if someone alleges that an official or employee has violated the Code of Ethics during their time of employment with the County and that official or employee retires, resigns or has completed their term, the Board of Ethics could not purse an investigation into the complaint.
DeKalb voters went to the polls in November 2015 to vote on a referendum that included a new method for appointing members to a seven (7) member board of Ethics. The Ethics Act passed by 92% of the voters, was based on extensive research by a citizen group and the 2014 Operations Task Force appointed by then Interim CEO Lee May.
Immediately following the passage of the act, lawyers for then Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton filed a lawsuit contending that the law was unconstitutional because unelected officials were making appointments to the Board of Ethics. The Georgia Supreme Court in August 2018 upheld the lower court ruling against the DeKalb Board of Ethics appointment process.
Senate Bill 7 (SB7) was introduced in January 2019 to fix the appointment process by identifying elected officials who may appoint members to the Board of Ethics. Since this bill included an appointment by the CEO and Board of Commissioners, a referendum is required.
However, what should have been a simple fix has become more complex and SB7 changes more than just the appointment process. The revised law would GUT the Board of Ethics, destroying the board’s effectiveness, public credibility and independence.
DeKalb Citizens Advocacy Council is a group of residents of DeKalb County, Georgia, whose goal is to educate the citizens of DeKalb County about county governance issues and to advocate for informed citizen engagement.