Former board of ethics member speaks out
Longtime DeKalb County resident and former DeKalb Board of Ethics member Scott Bonder said he needed to resign to notify residents that DeKalb’s ethics board is in danger.
Bonder, in an exclusive interview with The Champion, said he resigned from the board of ethics due to lawsuits stalling the work of board members. Potential legislation to address lawsuits could give control of appointments of board members to elected officials instead of the board members being appointed by independent groups.
The ethics board was created after voters approved a referendum in November of 2015. The referendum passed with 92 percent of the vote.
“It feels like we’re going backwards,” Bonder said. “To sit in those meetings and hear some of the comments. [DeKalb residents] didn’t always agree with our decisions, but they thanked us for the work we were doing. The whole thing is about to be blown up and put back into what it was.”
Recently, former DeKalb County commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton sued the board of ethics alleging ethics officer Stacey Kalberman advocated to keep the board the way it is. Board members are prohibited from engaging in partisan politics, Bonder said.
“Some might say the only way I could have this conversation with you was to resign,” Bonder said. “This [board of ethics] is supposed to be independent and it’s largely in danger by the people who have received most of the complaints.”
The Georgia House of Representatives voted to approve DeKalb legislators nominating board members. The bill heads to the Senate as Senate Bill 273. The bill, sponsored by Emanuel Jones, Fran Millar, Elena Parent, Gloria Butler, Tonya Anderson and Steve Henson, received 160 votes to amend in the House March 28 with one vote against—Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur. Earnest “Coach” Williams, D-Avondale Estates, did not vote.
Tom Taylor, R-Dunwoody, Karen Bennett, D-Stone Mountain, Meagan Hanson, R-Brookhaven, Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta, Howard Mosby, D-Atlanta, Renitta Shannon, D-Decatur, Karla Drenner, D-Avondale Estates, Michele Henson, D-Stone Mountain, Billy Mitchell, D-Stone Mountain, Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, Pam Stephenson, D-Decatur, Vernon Jones, D-Lithonia, Doreen Carter, D-Lithonia and Dar’Shun Kendrick, D-Lithonia voted for the bill.
“I felt like somebody needed to step off [the board] and warn the public. The way the board of ethics works now is great. We were actually moving through the backlog of complaints,” Bonder said.
The final day of the legislative session is March 30.
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