DeKalb voters are once again voting on revisions to an Ethics Act passed in 2015 by 92% of voters. This time, leaders of several DeKalb citizens’ groups are encouraging you to vote yes. Here are the reasons why:
- The Board of Ethics remains independent; no one under the purview of the Board of Ethics is making appointments to the board.
Unlike the 2019 bill, this bill does not provide for the CEO to make a Board of Ethics appointment and does not call for the board to submit its policies and procedures to review by the CEO and confirmation by the Board of Commissioners.
- DeKalb employees continue to have direct access to the ethics office to express concerns about ethics violations.
Unlike the 2019 bill, this bill does not require employees to funnel complaints about their immediate supervisor through the Human Resources Department and exhaust Merit System remedies before turning to the Board of Ethics.
- The position of Ethics Officer is retained, and the Ethics Officer is still vested with the authority to investigate and file ethics complaints, as well as provide training and advice to county employees.
- The board’s authority to investigate and report to the public has not been weakened.
The 2019 bill included a provision that required the Board of Ethics to abandon the investigation of elected officials or county employees if they resigned, retired or completed their term of office. The 2019 bill included a provision that prevented the board from rendering any decision on a complaint against a candidate within 45 days of an election.
The major change is how board members are going to be appointed. Four appointing authorities — state House and Senate legislative delegations, the county tax commissioner and clerk of the Superior Court — are responsible for making appointments to the board. Other changes include: 1) the addition of an Ethics Administrator to receive complaints; 2) a requirement for county officials or employees with a conflict of interest on an official county action to recuse themselves; 3) a ban on members of the DeKalb Purchasing and Contracting Department accepting gifts from anyone who might conduct business before the department; and 4) the appointment of two alternate board members to serve if needed.
Since board appointments must be made by Jan. 1, our groups are calling for the appointing authorities to make a public call for applications in early November and to use a uniform, coordinated application/interview process that is transparent, readily understood by all, and accountable to the public.
The Board of Ethics helps to preserve and protect the public’s trust in government. If this is a purpose you support and you have the qualifications to serve on the board, we encourage you to apply. It will take all of us working together to ensure that county officials (elected or appointed), employees and vendors understand that, in DeKalb County, we take ethics in public service seriously.
DeKalb Citizens Advocacy Council
Concerned Citizens for Effective Government
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