Monroe County Commissioners approved a code of ethics to govern the behavior of county employees and elected officials on Tuesday, June 18.
Monroe County attorney Ben Vaughn, who drafted the nine-page document, added three additional ethical provisions that were not included when the document was initially presented on June 4. Vaughn added a provision instructing commissioners to “Keep confidential all matters that are identified or marked as ‘strictly confidential’, identified or marked as ‘discussion for executive session’ or marked as ‘attorney-client privileged’ and are not otherwise required to be disclosed by the Georgia Open Records Act. Vaughn also added a second provision urging commissioners to “Keep confidential all matters that are discussed or considered in closed or executive session.” The final change added a provision stating commissioners and county employees should: “Make any proprietary interest in an agency, business or other organization doing business with the county known in writing to the County and County Clerk.”
District 3 commissioner John Ambrose made reference to Vaughn’s refusal to make available to commissioners the findings by an outside attorney about whether District 1 commissioner Larry Evans committed an ethics violation in his alleged berating of a county employee who didn’t hire his preferred candidate. Ambrose told Vaughn he objected to commissioners not being privy to a written report by an outside attorney.
The new ethics ordinance proposes hiring an independent review board made up of county attorneys of adjacent counties or state Superior Court judges to review and make recommendations concerning ethics violations by members of the Board of Commissioners. Evans said he instead preferred having a Monroe County grand jury appoint a review board made up of Monroe County citizens to serve as an ethics board with four-year terms. Evans said having regular citizens determine commissioners’ fate would take the politics out of the decision-making process. But District 4 commissioner George Emami replied that in a county as small as Monroe, it would be virtually impossible to find citizens who would have unbiased opinions on commissioners.
After about 15 minutes of discussion, Ambrose motioned to approve the new ethics ordinance, which was seconded by Emami. The measure then passed 3-1 with Evans opposed because he wanted a public hearing for citizens to voice their opinions on the ordinance prior to its approval. District 2 commissioner Eddie Rowland was absent from the June 18 meeting.