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On the DeKalb County ballot there will be a referendum to adopt changes which revise the Board of Ethics for the county. DeKalb Citizens Advocacy Council, the group that opposed the previous referendum, supports this one. You can find an in-depth explanation of the major changes and the reasons for support at this link:
According to the legislation, the appointments must be made by December 31, 2020. If the referendum passes in November, which we expect it will, appointing authorities must act at a particularly hectic time of year to appoint the new board members. For that reason, and to ensure quality appointments are made, we suggest they start now, so that they are ready to go on November 4 with a call for applications and meetings already scheduled on the books!
DeKalb Ethics Board Appointment Process Expectations and Recommendations
Here’s what you should expect to see on your ballot with regards to the Board of Ethics:
( ) YES “Shall the Act be approved which revises the Board of Ethics for DeKalb County?”
( ) NO
Here are the reasons why you should vote YES:
- The Board of Ethics remains independent; no one under the purview of the Board of Ethics is making appointments to the Board.
- Unlike the 2019 bill, this bill does not provide for the CEO to make a Board of Ethics appointment and does not call for the Board of Ethics to submit its policies and procedures to review by the CEO and confirmation by the Board of Commissioners.
- DeKalb employees continue to have direct access to the ethics office to express concerns about ethics violations.
- Unlike the 2019 bill, this bill does not require employees to funnel complaints about their immediate supervisor through the Human Resources Department and exhaust Merit System remedies before turning to the Board of Ethics.
- The position of Ethics Officer is retained, and the Ethics Officer is still vested with the authority to investigate and file ethics complaints.
- The Board’s authority to investigate and report to the public has not been weakened.
- The 2019 bill included a provision that required the Board of Ethics to abandon the investigation of elected officials or county employees if the resigned, retired or completed their term of office.
- The 2019 bill included a provision that prevented the Board from rendering any decision on a complaint against a candidate within 45 days of an election.
As you have probably heard by now, revisions to the county’s Ethics Act were passed by the General Assembly and voters will have a chance to approve or disapprove of them in November.
Considering last year’s problematic revisions and those suggested by some legislators this year before the General Assembly’s recess due to the pandemic, we are relieved by the legislation that was passed. The many revisions which threatened the independence of the Board of Ethics and would have dramatically weakened its authority, policies and procedures were not included in the final bill.
In addition to actively working to encourage voters to pass the Ethics Act revision bill in November, we will be monitoring how the House and Senate delegations fulfill their appointment responsibilities. It is important that they make a public call for nominations and use a vetting process resulting in a board of diverse, qualified, and independent citizens from throughout the county.
3 members will be appointed by the House legislative delegation
3 members will be appointed by the Senate legislative delegation
1 member will be appointed by the Tax Commissioner
2 Alternate Members will be appointed by the Clerk of Superior Court
You may be wondering why judges were not included in the appointment process. It turns out that a 1995 opinion issued by the state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) stated that judges should not make appointments to or serve on Board of Ethics due to possible future conflicts if any of these matters were to result in litigation. Ed Williams of Concerned Citizens for Effective Government uncovered this opinion (Opinion 222) and brought it to our attention.
To respond to the unsubstantiated “judge-jury-executioner” criticism of how the Ethics Officer handled and investigated complaints, a new position was added to the staff of the ethics office. An Ethics Administrator will receive and review complaints, notify the subjects of complaints that a complaint has been filed, and report the complaints to the Board for decision-making about further investigation by the Ethics Officer. The Ethics Administrator will be selected by the Board of Ethics and serve at the pleasure of the Board. The Ethics Officer, at the direction of the Board, will continue to do preliminary investigations to determine jurisdiction and probable cause, in addition to pursuing previously mandated duties, including educating and training county employees and officials, advising officials and employees regarding disclosure statements, urging compliance with the code of ethics, and monitoring and acting upon information obtained from the “ethics hotline.”
Addition to Proscribed Conduct re Receipt of Gifts
The legislators added a new subsection that states no employee of the Purchasing and Contracting Department shall accept any gift of value from anyone who has had or may be anticipated to have any business with or before the department. This was already in effect, but it will now be added to the code.
An addition was made to the section dealing with Disclosure of Interests in which officials or employees with a potential conflict of interest in a matter shall recuse themselves from participating or taking any official acts or actions in any manner of the county affected by that individual’s conflict of interest. This, too, has been policy, but will now be in the code.
2021 DCAC Newsletters
2020 DCAC Newsletters
November 22, 2020 Newsletter
November 15, 2020 Newsletter
October 25, 2020 Newsletter
October 10, 2020 Newsletter
September 20, 2020 Newsletter
September 12, 2020 Newsletter
July 26, 2020 Newsletter
July 2, 2020 Newsletter
June 14, 2020 Newsletter
May 8, 2020 Newsletter
March 30, 2020 Newsletter
March 9, 2020 Newsletter
March 3, 2020 Newsletter
February 24, 2020 Newsletter
February 4, 2020 Newsletter
January 23, 2020 Newsletter
January 12, 2020 Newsletter