Sunday, November 17, 2019

Legislators propose task force study of DeKalb Ethics Board

State legislators from DeKalb County plan to appoint a task force to suggest a solution for ethics reform in the county after the defeat of a ballot referendum to change the county's Board of Ethics.

State Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur) says the goal of the task force "will be to gather information and provide recommendations on legislation to be introduced in the 2020 Legislative Session."

"It is clear the DeKalb County delegation still has work to do to produce a reasonable solution to ethics reform in our county,” Jones says in a press release. “Doing nothing is not an option, as the Georgia Supreme Court has already ruled that changes to the DeKalb Board of Ethics must take place."

Mary Hinkel, the chair of the DeKalb Citizens Advocacy Council, which urged residents to vote against the proposal on the November ballot, says her group has asked legislators to include a representative of her group on the panel.

"We hope you intend to keep the task force focused on the immediate issue at hand: revising the appointment process. Based on the delegation's prior experience in trying to revise the 2015 Ethics Act in 2017 and 2019, it appears that going beyond this 'fix' is what gets ethics legislation in trouble," Hinkel writes in a letter to Jones and State Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates), the chair of the DeKalb County House delegation.

"Other issues can be dealt with through the Charter Review Commission and/or in separate legislation. In order to get an ethics board up and running, the board appointment process must be addressed now, and, if it is determined that a referendum must or should be held in this matter, then passing a bill before the March Primary election is of paramount importance. Time is of the essence," Hinkel writes.

Sen. Jones says he is committed to producing "meaningful legislation that will enhance DeKalb County’s ethics procedures.”