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BOC asks who should be on ethics commission
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Two different proposals  – one from Commission Chairman Richard Oden and one from Commissioner JaNice Van Ness – on who should sit on the ethics board will be on the hot plate at Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners work session. 

The existing laws on the three-member ethics board, which hears ethics complaints filed against county commissioners, outline that the board be composed of one person appointed by the Rockdale Bar Association, one person appointed by the Board of Commissioners as voted on by the majority of commissioners, and one appointed by county employees who live in the county drawn from a list of nominees chosen by the Rockdale Coalition of Homeowners and Civic Associations. Although the law was passed in 2008, the ethics board has not yet been activated.

In previous meetings, Commissioner JaNice Van Ness had proposed revising the ordinance to remove the county employees and Rockdale Coalition of Homeowners and Civic Associations’ appointment and instead have the Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce appoint one member. 

At the July 15 work session, Chairman Richard Oden dusted off recommendations presented in 2011 by a volunteer panel initiated by Oden and chaired by former Rockdale GOP head David Shipp. Sherri Washington, Mike Kessler, and then Rockdale Democratic VP Garvin Haynes had been chosen by Shipp to be part of the panel, along with other members. 

In the proposal backed by Oden, one ethics commission member would be appointed by the Rockdale Democratic Party, one by the Rockdale Republican Party and one by the Rockdale Bar Association. 

Oden also suggested having temporary members drawn at random from the volunteer applications to the county to sit on panels and boards, in case of a conflict of interest between a commissioner and sitting ethics board member.

At the July 15 work session, Van Ness said, “I’m not in favor of the political parties being part of this. I think this should be a nonpartisan board.”

Nesbitt agreed, adding, “I don’t think we need to engage the political parties with governing a board from an ethics standpoint. We’ve got enough politics involved in day to day operations as it is. I think we need to leave the decision of governing this body up to the people.”

Van Ness expressed support for the idea of having temporary ethics board members drawn at random by the Clerk of Courts from volunteer applicants in case an alternate member would be needed if there was a conflict of interest with an ethics board member and a commissioner. 

The latest draft from the Chairman’s office, as of Friday, Aug. 1, goes a step further and proposes seven people sit on the ethics commission to hear a complaint – three standing members and four temporary members.

The three standing members would be appointed by the Rockdale Bar, Rockdale Democrats and Rockdale Republicans.

Three temporary members would be drawn at random from the pool of county volunteers.

And one temporary member would be chosen by the commissioner accused of the ethics violation. 

The three standing members, according to Oden’s latest proposal, would each serve three year terms, but the Bar’s initial appointment would serve a two year term, in order to stagger the rotations. 

The Board of Commissioners meets Tuesday, 10 a.m. at 901 Main Street.