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Voters reject proposal to restructure DeKalb’s Ethics Board

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Voters reject proposal to restructure DeKalb’s Ethics Board

DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.
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DeKalb County voters on Nov. 5 sent a message that the county’s Legislative delegation needs to take another look at reforming the county’s Ethics Board.

According to the vote totals, 61.3 percent of voters countywide said “no thanks” to a proposal that would’ve reformed and — according to critics — weakened the board.

In November 2015, voters overwhelmingly passed a referendum to appoint seven members to an ethics committee and reform the county’s Ethics Board. Former commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton filed a lawsuit to stop private groups, such as Leadership DeKalb, from appointing members to the ethics committee. A judge agreed with her and the decision was upheld in Georgia Supreme Court in August 2018.

Senate Bill 7 was an attempt to make the board compliant with the state Constitution, but the bill also removed the county’s Ethics Officer and replaced it with an Ethics Administrator and it discouraged employees from reporting issues directly to the Ethics Board, saying whistle blowers should take it up with Human Resources first. The County Commission and CEO would also be given the ability to approve the board’s rules and procedures.

During a recent town hall, members of the county’s Legislative Delegation indicated they are willing to give this another shot.

Rep. Viola Davis (D-Stone Mountain) said, “I have a plan if it passes, and I have a plan if it fails.”

Rep. Doreen Carter (D-Lithonia) told attendees, “If you say no, then we go back to the drawing board.”

The DeKalb Citizens Advocacy Council, which rallied opposition to the bill, celebrated its victory.

“We researched and read. We attended countless meetings. We knocked on doors,” Advocacy Council Chair Mary Hinkel said. “And tonight, the voters said, ‘We hear you.’ We have proven that it is important to be informed about what is on your ballot.”

 
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