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Activists give thumbs up to legislation that will fix DeKalb County’s Ethics Board

campaign coverage Metro ATL

Activists give thumbs up to legislation that will fix DeKalb County’s Ethics Board

DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.
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DeKalb County, GA — DeKalb County has not had a functioning Board of Ethics since 2018 when the state Supreme Court ruled its appointment process unconstitutional.

But a bill to fix the Ethics Board, HB 1243, has passed the Senate and it is likely the proposed reforms will be on the ballot this November, state Sen. Elena Parent said in an email to her constituents. It’s a bill that activists pushing to reform the Ethics Board said they will support.

“This bill, spearheaded by Rep. Viola Davis,  keeps the independent ethics officer but also puts in place an ethics administrator to whom those who witness or become aware of an ethics violation could file an anonymous or sworn written complaint,” Parent said. “Upon receiving the complaint, the ethics administrator will send notice to the subject of the complaint by the next business day. The current DeKalb Ethics Board will serve until the end of 2020, and a new board will be appointed by December 31st of this year. The appointment process has changed so that three of those members will be appointed by the DeKalb House Delegation, three by the DeKalb Senate Delegation, and one by the DeKalb Tax Commissioner. Many of you will recall that the reason the legislation was necessitated in the first place was because of a Georgia Supreme Court ruling that the appointment process put into law in 2015 was unconstitutional as to the appointment of a majority of the members.”

Parent said there will also be two alternate members who serve as ex-officio members selected by the Clerk of DeKalb Superior Court.

“Each ethics board member and the alternates will serve for three years with staggered terms,” Parent said. “Now that this bill has cleared both chambers, it will go to the Governor’s desk for his signature. Then DeKalb voters will have the chance to vote in a referendum on the measure in November. I am hopeful we can get to a ‘YES’ vote and have our Ethics Board operational again!”

The DeKalb Citizens for Advocacy Council (DCAC) has taken the lead in pushing for a fix to the county’s broken Ethics Board and says it will support the bill and campaign on its behalf this fall.

Mary Hinkel, the chairperson of the group, said, “We expect the bill will be signed by the Governor, and we hope the voters of DeKalb will pass it in November.  In our opinion, the legislation does not materially weaken the work of the Board of Ethics or the Ethics Officer.  In addition to actively encouraging voters to pass the Ethics Act revision bill, we will be monitoring how the House and Senate delegations fulfill their appointment responsibilities, now that six of the seven board members will be appointed by them. We hope they use a publicly transparent process that results in a board of diverse, qualified, and independent citizens from throughout the county.”

 

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