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DeKalb County pledges to be more ethical

Metro ATL

DeKalb County pledges to be more ethical

DeKalb County Board of Commissioners. File photo.
File photo of DeKalb County Commission. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

File photo of DeKalb County Commission. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

Interim DeKalb County CEO Lee May, whose predecessor Burrell Ellis was suspended from office a year ago after he was indicted on corruption charges, on Wednesday said he is “sick and tired” of the county’s ethically-challenged government.

May announced stricter ethics rules and the creation of an “ethics watchdog,” a new full time position that will report directly to the DeKalb County Board of Ethics.

According to a press release from the county, the so-called Chief Integrity Officer  “will be responsible for training all county employees, fielding tips about unethical behavior and monitoring an ethics hotline.

“The Chief Integrity Officer will have the unilateral power and responsibility to bring all ethics concerns directly to the attention to the Ethics Board, without having to wait for a citizen complaint.”

May’s announcement comes as four different county commissioners are under one kind of investigation or another related to allegedly ethically-questionable conduct. Those inquires also extend to county staff. Click here to read a WABE article that outlines the various allegations in faithful detail.

The commissioners that have fallen under suspicion are: Larry Johnson, Elaine Boyer, Stan Watson, and Sharon Barnes Sutton.

May said in a press release that the allegations surrounding county government bother him.

“I firmly believe in due process, and allowing the issues that have already been brought to the table to run their legal course,” May said. “Having said that, it’s the improper and possibly illegal activity in DeKalb’s ranks that we don’t know about that keeps me awake at night.”

He outlined new rules that he hopes will keep county employees and elected officials honest:

– Gifts are only allowed up to $40 per source. No source can give gifts totaling more than $120 per year to any employee, except for awards or certificates, gifts from family members, gifts from other governments or gifts that are given to the county as a whole, not an individual.

– Meals can only be paid for only in connection with an official government purpose, otherwise the max is $40 per source or per meal, with a maximum of $120.

– Travel expenses can only be claimed for an official government purpose.

– Tickets to sporting or cultural events are not allowed unless there is an official government purpose.

– Honoraria is not allowed, without exceptions.

The county also has an ethics hotline (855-224-8216) that will be monitored regularly for things that sound unethical. If you prefer to report unethical conduct electronically, visit the county’s new ethics website: www.co.dekalb.ethicspoint.com