Thursday, April 22, 2010

County Attorney Presents Draft Ethics Ordinance to Oconee County Commissioners

Anyone Can Complain

Oconee County Attorney Daniel Haygood presented the Board of Commissioners an 11-page draft ethics ordinance Tuesday night that spells out ethical standards and sets up conditions for creation of a Board of Ethics to hear complaints about Board members.

The ordinance says, among other things, that commissioners shall not have an interest in any contracts or transactions affected by their actions, attempt to influence a county officer making country purchases, withhold information from county boards or departments or make unauthorized use of county property.

The draft ordinance states that anyone can initiate a complaint against a Board member. The complaint will be reviewed initially by the county attorney and, if it involves a commissioner, forwarded to a special master. If the special master determines that the complaint has merit, the master will appoint an ad hoc ethics board to hear the complaint.

Commissioners found in violation of the ethics ordinance could receive a warning, censure or reprimand, be made to make repayment to the county for any unjust enrichment, be asked to resign and be referred to criminal authorities for prosecution.

Haygood drafted the ordinance at the request of the Board and forwarded it to members along with a Draft Model Ethics Ordinance for Counties prepared by the Association County Commissioners of Georgia,

Haygood also sent to the board an analysis of ethics ordinances prepared by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia for Gwinnett County.

Following the presentation of the draft ordinance, the Board decided to schedule an open work session to discuss further the ordinance after the Board has completed its budget deliberations. The Board is schedule to vote on the budget on June 1.

County Administrative Officer Alan Theriault proposed that he put the materials provided by Haygood on the web for the public to view, but Commission Chairman Melvin Davis said he wanted to wait until after the work session to share the documents with the public.

I obtained the documents via an open records request and have placed them on Google Documents as public files.

Commissioner John Daniell has taken the initiative in pushing for an ethics ordinance since he joined the Board in January of last year.

Daniell also pushed another of his interests at the meeting on Tuesday night in proposing a special, town-hall style meeting to discuss economic development in the county.

Theriault was instructed to set up the meeting and invite not only the general public but members of the Chamber of Commerce and others interested in finding ways to promote economic development in the county.

Oconee County and Athens/Clarke County officials have discussed collaborative efforts at development in recent years, and Daniell has been a proponent of consideration of these.

He indicated that all such issues should be discussed at the as yet unscheduled town hall meeting.

Here are the three documents:

Ethics Ordinance for the Oconee County Board of Commissioners (Haygood)

Draft Model Ethics Ordinance for Counties (ACCG)

County Ethics Ordinances: An Analysis and Comparison (CVIOG)