The Dunwoody City Council has approved hiring a hearing officer for the Board of Ethics, which is to hear complaints against council members next month.
The board requested the hearing officer, likely an attorney or retired judge, to help the board’s meetings run more smoothly.
“I think their request is appropriate,” said Acting City Attorney Cecil McLendon.
Councilman John Heneghan pressed McLendon, who has authored ethics ordinances in the past, for his opinion on the necessity of a hearing officer.
“My ethics ordinances usually [include] a hearing officer,” McLendon said.
But Councilman Terry Nall said he did not think it was necessary to pay someone to run the meetings.
“I cannot support the additional expenditure above and beyond the independent counsel,” Nall said.
He said all other boards, such as City Council and the Zoning Board of Appeals, are citizen boards without hearing officers.
“We should appear before a citizens board just like the citizens do,” Nall said.
Councilwoman Adrian Bonser said because the members of the ethics board are appointed by the council, having a hearing officer may take away any appearance of impropriety.
“In my opinion it would be more objective and appropriate,” Bonser said.
Mayor Mike Davis said after watching the board’s previous meetings, he thinks a hearing officer would be helpful.
“I think by having a hearing officer, it helps speed this thing up and helps it come to a conclusion,” Davis said.
City Council voted 5-2 at the Aug. 27 meeting to appropriate funds for a hearing officer. Nall and Councilman Doug Thomson were opposed.
In the spring, City Council members filed a formal ethics complaint against Bonser for allegedly leaking confidential information about a land transaction from a February executive session.
Bonser then filed a complaint against the mayor and other council members accusing them of improperly holding a closed meeting.
On Sept. 18, the ethics board is scheduled to hear motions to dismiss the complaints. If they are upheld, the board will schedule formal hearings.