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Advocacy group works to revive DeKalb Ethics Board

COVID-19 Metro ATL

Advocacy group works to revive DeKalb Ethics Board

A map of DeKalb County.
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By Cathi Harris, contributor 

DeKalb County, GA – The DeKalb Citizens for Advocacy Council (DCAC), a volunteer group pushing for transparency in county government, hopes to keep the beleaguered DeKalb County Board of Ethics from becoming a secondary victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group recently released the results of a survey sent to candidates for all DeKalb state House and Senate seats measuring their support for new legislation to fix the board’s appointment process.

If or when the legislators return either this month or next, their focus must be on the budgeting process, and ethics will most likely not be on their agenda,” Mary Hinkel, chair of DeKalb Citizens told Decaturish in an email. “Nevertheless, the citizens of DeKalb County, who are responsible for developing and passing the 2015 Ethics Act and who wisely refused to weaken the act with the November referendum, must continue to make sure the issue of the nonfunctioning Board of Ethics remains a priority for the delegation.”

DeKalb County has not had a functioning Board of Ethics since 2018 when the state Supreme Court ruled its appointment process unconstitutional. 

Last year, District 10 state Sen. Emanuel Jones filed a bill in the Georgia Legislature to fix the appointment process, but later revisions to the bill led some members of the delegation to oppose it. The measure was passed by the Legislature but ultimately rejected by DeKalb voters in a November referendum, leaving the board in limbo.

To keep the issue alive for voters and candidates, DCAC sent a nine-question survey to all current candidates for state House and Senate seats from DeKalb. The questions were designed to elicit their support or opposition to different aspects of the ethics board’s composition and function.

Of the 49 registered candidates who received the survey, 21 responded. You can view the survey questions and the candidates’ individual responses here.

DCAC sent the questionnaire by email to all registered candidates on April 2, asking for a response by April 10, Hinkel said. On April 10, they followed up with an email to those who had not responded and extended the deadline further into April.

“This has been a unique campaign season with few public opportunities to question candidates in order to understand their views on many issues, including ethics legislation,” Hinkel added. “We wanted voters to become informed on a matter that is crucial for the long-term health of the county. An Ethics Voter Guide is one way for voters to quickly assess where their candidates stand on this. And, of course, we wanted to keep the need for ethics legislation on the radar of the voting public and the candidates.”

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