Monroe County Commissioners adopted on June 20 a new ethics ordinance for elected officials, employees and appointed board members less than two months after a county commissioner was scrutinized for allegedly reprimanding a county department head.

Monroe County attorney Ben Vaughn, who wrote the new ethics ordinance, said on Tuesday, June 4 that the 9-page document contains 24 ethical provisions for county officials to follow. The document also provides for a complaint, appeal and penalty process should violations occur. The Board of Commissioners would serve as the final arbiter in an ethics hearing unless the official under scrutiny is a commissioner. In that instance a panel of three Superior Court judges or three county attorneys from other counties would make a recommendation on whether the accused commissioner committed a violation. The remaining commissioners would then decide whether to uphold the outside party’s recommendation and what the penalty should be.

Vaughn said the county has not previously had its own ethics ordinance in place and has previously used an ethics ordinance created by the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) and Georgia Municipal Association (GMA). He said provisions, such as that commissioners must almost exclusively go through the county manager to issue orders to lesser county employees, are “a substantial departure” from the way the county has previously done business. District 1 commissioner Larry Evans came under fire in April after he allegedly reprimanded a county department head after she didn’t hire one of Evans’ family members.

Evans told Vaughn he thought the county attorney should also be subject to following the county’s ethics ordinance, but Vaughn said he is only excluded because the State Bar of Georgia’s ethics code is more “onerous” than the county’s proposed one.

Evans then said he wanted to review a section regarding conflicts of interest more closely before the document is approved, saying while commissioner he has never accepted a campaign donation nor accepted payments for meals.