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Reborn ethics committee takes shape

Larry O’Keefe and Jeffrey Benoit discuss their duties as newly appointed members of Clayton County’s revived ethics committee Tuesday.

Larry O’Keefe and Jeffrey Benoit discuss their duties as newly appointed members of Clayton County’s revived ethics committee Tuesday.

— The county’s reformed ethics committee has, for the most part, been set by Clayton County commissioners, but now the group has a key question to answer.

What’s next?

Does the committee start from scratch or does it merely revise recommendations made by a previous ethics advisory committee? The previous committee made a lengthy list of recommendations for ethics reforms in 2008, but the suggestions were never acted upon.

The decision on which route will be taken will likely be made jointly by commissioners and committee members in the coming weeks. There is a strong possibility the committee’s work will focus on revising its predecessor’s recommendations.

“The way I understand this is it will be more of a review and that sort of thing, and not going through the nuts and bolts that we had to go through before,” said committee member Larry O’Keefe, a member of the original panel and the reconstituted board.

Commissioners appointed five people to the seven-member committee, and more appointments are expected in the future to fill out the board. Regardless of how they approach their task, they will be responsible for picking up where a previous ethics advisory committee left off nearly half a decade ago.

Commissioner Sonna Singleton appointed O’Keefe.

Commissioner Shana Rooks appointed Cynthia Freeman, who joins O’Keefe as a returning member from the previous committee.

Chairman Jeff Turner appointed former Tax Commissioner Pat Hussey, Rex resident Jeffrey Benoit and Hampton resident Tom Brown.

Vice-Chairman Michael Edmondson was not present for the meeting and Commissioner Gail Hambrick told her colleagues she was not ready to make her appointment. They are expected to make their appointments next month.

Last week, Turner said this go around with ethics reform would not end like the last one. The commission will adopt some form of a recommendation put out by the committee this time, he promised.

During the commission’s pre-meeting session, O’Keefe said the community will have to trust the commissioners intentions in reconstituting the committee for ethics reform to be seen as a success.

“The big thing, of course, is to get the community to buy in,” he said.