Several ethics complaints dismissed against county leaders

The DeKalb County Ethics Board is in the process of considering several complaints against county leaders. Photo by Andrew Cauthen

Ethics complaints against DeKalb County Commissioners Jeff Rader and Stan Watson have been dismissed.

The ethics board “found that the complaint was unspecific, although it was inflammatory and defamatory,” said Rader after the complaint against him was dismissed. “They found that it didn’t have enough specifics for them to act on, so I’m glad it was dismissed for that reason.”

The complaint against Rader, filed by Timothy Brantley of Decatur, alleged that Rader “defrauded” DeKalb County residents by using his position as a commissioner to illegally enrich himself and his former employer, Jacobs Engineering.

When he was first elected, Rader said, he sought and received from the ethics board an advisory opinion on how to avoid conflict of interest regarding his employment.

“I’ve conducted myself consistent with that advisory opinion,” Rader said. “I actually sought the opinion before I took office, knowing that that could be a conflict.”

Gene Chapman, the ethic board’s attorney, said, “There [are] not specific instances or facts showing that Mr. Rader received kickbacks. If those facts are true, you have subject matter jurisdiction. The problem is that those facts are very vague and ambiguous.”

The DeKalb County Ethics Board is in the process of considering several complaints against county leaders. Photo by Andrew Cauthen
Rader said the filer of the complaint “never entered a request for any records through the Open Records Act or any other means to be able to discover evidence. He didn’t even go through the motions of trying to get evidence before he made these defamatory accusations.”

The ethics complaint against Watson, filed by DeKalb resident Rhea Johnson, alleged that the commissioner used his county purchasing card for personal purchases and was tied to a corruption case in South Carolina involving bribes.

The ethics board also dismissed a complaint against the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners and interim county CEO Lee May. That complaint alleged the commissioners and interim CEO interfered with the ethics board by creating paid positions to work for the board.

A complaint against Sheriff Jeff Mann concerning an alleged assault was dismissed because the board decided that it does not have jurisdiction over the sheriff’s department.

“It is gratifying to see that our revitalized Board of Ethics is proceeding deliberately, responsibly and rapidly to process the concerns of our residents,” May said, in a statement. “There was never a doubt in my mind about the propriety of my actions, but the point is that complaints can be vetted thoroughly through an independent organization.”

An ethics complaint against Commissioner Kathie Gannon is still being considered by the ethics board, which decided that it had the jurisdiction to investigate the allegations.
An ethics complaint against Commissioner Elaine Boyer and her assistant Bob Lundsten, is still under preliminary investigation.

Attorney Vic Hartman, who has been investigating the allegations for the ethics board, said he has enough information for the ethics board to consider in a preliminary hearing.

Ethics Board chairman John Ernst said he will set the preliminary hearing for mid-September.
Rader said he could not predict whether more ethics complaints would be dismissed.

“There’s a wide range of complaints and each of them will have to be considered on their own merits,” Rader said.

Although the complaint against him was “frivolous,” Rader said “the public deserves a venue, when they don’t have to go through some politician in order to get someone to review their concerns.”

The ethics board “is a benefit for DeKalb and we are well advised to remember that venue is available to the public,” Rader said.

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