JONESBORO — The head of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners’ ethics advisory committee said he believes the county is working on an ethics proposal even though little has been said publicly about the issue in more than four months.
The committee presented its recommendations for a county-wide ethics policy and an board to enforce it during a commission meeting in December. However, the issue hasn’t come up again since then and no proposed ordinances or policies have been put forward for a vote by the commission.
That has led some members of the advisory committee to quietly wonder if the commission was going to do anything with the recommendations. Recommendations put forward about six years ago by a previous advisory group were never acted upon.
However, committee Chairman Larry O’Keeffe said he’s seen signs that give him hope an ethics policy is being put together.
“I had the same questions but then I was contacted by the county’s legal department at the beginning of this month and asked if I could provide them with a soft copy of the recommendations,” said O’Keeffe. “Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean something is going to be drafted, but my feeling is that if they are asking for a document, then somebody is doing something.”
O’Keeffe said his belief that a policy is being drafted is based upon the procedure the county was expected to take towards putting ethics rules into place.
Commissioners were supposed to review the committee’s recommendations and forward their own notes and suggestions to Chairman Jeff Turner, said O’Keeffe. He said Turner, in turn, was supposed to forward those notes and recommendations to the county’s legal department so a policy could be drafted.
“The chairman couldn’t guarantee that the other commissioners would pass it, but he’s going to at least put it up for a vote which is more than we got the last time,” said O’Keeffe.
Turner said the commissioners are still reviewing the recommendations, but he had the legal department obtain a copy from O’Keeffe to make sure it matched what commissioners were working from.
“We’ve just had so much on our plate that we are just now back around to dealing with this, but my intention is to having something ready in the very near future,” said Turner. “I’m not going to have a report done and not take it seriously.
“If the people took their time to put these recommendations together, then it’s always my intention to do something with it to benefit the county,” he added.
Turner said residents can expect to see a policy put forward for a vote “within the next month or two.”
Among the sections the advisory committee recommended for inclusion in the policy is an obligation for county employees and elected officials to report other employees and elected official who they find are engaged in wrongdoing.
Other recommendations include provisions that would bar officials and employees from releasing confidential information for their own personal or financial gain, and make contractors, vendors and suppliers be eligible for sanctions for engaging in unethical conduct.
In addition to the ethics policy, the committee recommended the creation of a seven-member ethics board to hear complaints and issue sanctions. The committee recommended Clayton County’s Chamber of Commerce, bar association, NAACP chapter, mayors association and Clayton State University’s Office of the President each be allowed to appoint board members to ensure it remains impartial.