Ethics complaints filed against Commission candidates (Oct. 30, 2010)
Campaign materials for Post I Commissioner Oz Nesbitt that used a county email address were brought into question after the State of the County address on Jan. 26.
A business card with Nesbitt’s picture and the word “Re-elect” also had the address of the Board of Commissioner’s offices and the email and phone number of a county employee who schedules appointments for the part-time commissioners.
Republican candidate for Post I Commissioner Sam Smiley questioned the cards after the State of the County address.
Nesbitt said to The News, “Those cards have been discarded and that was an oversight by my reelection team… We accept ownership of our mistakes.”
He said those cards were created using the template of the business cards he uses as Commissioner with the added word “reelect.”
However, elected officials cannot use taxpayer funded government resources, such as phone lines and email accounts, for election campaigns.
The county's Human Resources policy, approved in 2006, regarding political activity of county employees says:
"Employees shall not use or seek to use, directly or indirectly, their official authority or influence or use County property or resources for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of a political election, nomination or referendum, provided, however, that the foregoing shall not be interpreted or construed so as to abrogate or abridge the right of any such employee to express their political opinions, vote, seek elective office or otherwise participate in political undertakings in accordance with applicable state and federal laws. Such political activity, however, must be performed on the employee's personal time."
Nesbitt said, “There’s people watching every little thing Oz Nesbitt does.”
He continued, “I didn’t see it being that big of a deal.”
“We’ve got to stay focused on the issues.” He said some of the issues voters are focused on are jobs, public safety, and clean, safe water.
He said he was not going to get into mudslinging and added that he did not report an incident where three signs were taken that had been placed in a neighborhood for a commissioner Meet and Greet event he held in December.
Ethics complaints were filed in Fall 2010 with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Ethics Commission, formerly called the State Ethics Commission, by a local resident for a campaign solicitation email from Commissioner JaNice Van Ness that was sent to the county email address of a county employee.
During that time, Chief of Staff Greg Pridgeon said "In most governments it is understood campaigning doesn't happen on county property," said Pridgeon. "County employees have the right to interact with and support any candidate they want on their own time."