Ethics Board holds special called meeting as legislator encourages remaining members to resign

The DeKalb County Ethics Board has named a new interim chairperson and is seeking legal counsel after the resignation of five board members and the board’s previous lawyer.

The remaining two members and two alternates on the DeKalb County Ethics Board held a special called meeting on March 13 through Zoom to discuss their next steps.

“I first want to set the record straight,” said board member Bill Clark at the beginning of the meeting. “Our board rules indicate that we must have a quorum present to conduct business. A quorum for this board is four members and when there are absences or vacancies, the chairperson of the board shall appoint alternate board members to ensure a quorum is present. But, since our previous chairperson quit the board last month, we do not have a chairperson to appoint the alternates to full board status to ensure a quorum.”

Clark continued, “We have consulted with several lawyers, and they have advised us that the DeKalb Code of Ethics is absolutely clear that when members of the board are absentee or there are vacancies, the two alternate members ‘shall serve to ensure a quorum.’ The statute does not say anything about a chairperson appointing these alternates before they can serve as part of a quorum. Laws enacted by the legislature take precedence over any agency-created rule. So, we have to follow the mandate of the legislature, which says our alternates shall serve to ensure a quorum. We do not propose to act on anything other than the required act of electing a chairperson and the critical act of addressing certain legal needs of the board.”

The board then voted unanimously to elect Rosa Waymon as interim board chair as well as to retain outside litigation counsel for pending litigation and retain a lawyer for general counsel purposes.

Waymon said that earlier this year, “the entire board became aware of a concern between staff.”

“We immediately decided we needed to have an outside investigation,” continued Waymon. “The outside investigator investigated the events of concern, and we were satisfied with the report. However, that did not preclude a lawsuit from coming in from that same concern earlier this year. Therefore, we feel we must act to protect the board. We would be remiss if we did not address it.”

After the March 13 meeting, Sen. Emanuel Jones (D, Decatur) put out a public statement asking the remaining members of the DeKalb Ethics Board to resign.

“As the original author of the legislation that reestablished the DeKalb County Board of Ethics in 2020, I am extremely disappointed in the events that transpired which led to the resignation of the majority of their board members,” reads Jones’s statement, in part. “The actions of a few rogue members of the Ethics Board have cast a shadow on the board’s purpose. DeKalb is better than this. I call on all remaining members of the DeKalb County Board of Ethics to resign in order to establish an entirely new DeKalb County Board of Ethics, alleviating the risk of personal agendas and baggage interfering with the intended role of the DeKalb County Board of Ethics. Simply adding additional members to the existing board will not solve the overall problem at hand. This matter is urgent, and I urge all remaining members of the DeKalb County Board of Ethics to resign effective immediately in order to build a stronger DeKalb.”

Recently, DeKalb County Legislative Delegation Chairs, including State Senator Kim Jackson (D, Stone Mountain) and State Representative Karla Drenner (D, Avondale Estates), joined with DeKalb County Clerk of Superior Court Debra DeBerry and DeKalb County Tax Commissioner Irvin Johnson “to issue a call for nominations to the DeKalb Board of Ethics in light of the recent resignations from the board,” stated a news release.

Last month, DeKalb County Board of Ethics Chair Alex Joseph resigned citing “serious concerns about the culture of the board.”

“I made the difficult decision to resign from the DeKalb County Board of Ethics,” said Joseph. “Specifically, I am concerned that the board seems determined to conduct business in closed door meetings. In my opinion, all discussions should take place on the record. The board should be a model of transparent, accessible government.”

At the special called meeting, Waymon said that although the scheduled board meeting for March had been canceled, the ethics board “looks forward to having a full board again for the April 20 meeting.”

“We urgently invite DeKalb citizens with the right credentials and the heart to serve to come and join this noble work,” said Waymon. “This work will move forward. We’ve done a magnificent job attending to the work of ethics in DeKalb County. We have not been slack in any of those areas. We have had the challenge of litigation but we’re going to move beyond that too because we strongly feel together we can weather that storm. We encourage you to join us in this work and we assure you that when you come to this board, you will find a welcoming and an inclusive group of people.”

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