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Fayette commission to change ethics ordinance?

The Fayette County Commission will conduct a special called meeting Tuesday evening to “discuss Fayette County’s ethics ordinance.” The meeting will convene at 5:30 p.m. at the large public meeting room at the county administrative complex in downtown Fayetteville.

The ethics ordinance has been front and center over the past few months as the county ethics board has met twice to consider ethics complaints filed separately against former county attorney Scott Bennett and against sitting commissioner Steve Brown.

Bennett was cleared of any wrongdoing, but the board ruled Wednesday that Brown violated the ethics ordinance twice: once by issuing an order to a county employee in an email and once by sending a letter to the state attorney general that disclosed a matter discussed in executive session; the board however decided not to enact any punishment on Brown for the violations.

That ethics complaint was filed in November by then-commissioner Robert Horgan, who this week filed a separate ethics complaint against Brown claiming that Brown issued another improper order to the county marshal’s office to investigate the destruction of information on the hard drives of the former county attorney and county administrator. Brown said Wednesday that he had his fellow commissioner’s permission to request that investigation, which would likely make the ethics complaint moot.

The three-member ethics board consists of appointees selected last fall by the commission, which also appointed two alternate members. One of the alternates served this week in the hearing against Brown following the resignation of ethics board member Dan Langford, who is also the mayor of Brooks.

If the ethics board determines that an ethics violation has occurred there are several options they have to resolve the matter, including:

• No admonishment and no further action;

• A public reprimand and admonishment not to violate the ethics code in the future;

• A formal reprimand;

• Public censure;

• Recommendation for termination, resignation or recall; or

• Recommendation for prosecution in the State Court of Fayette County.

The ethics board can also decide to “admonish, formally reprimand, publicly censure” any complaining party who files a petition determined to be “unjustified, frivolous, patently unfounded or factually insufficient.”

At Thursday night’s commission meeting, resident Bob Ross urged commissioners to remove a section of the ethics ordinance that forbids individual commissioners “from acting alone, (to) make suggestions to the department directors or their employees regarding the performance of their duties, nor give instructions to department directors or other employees.” Such a matter should be dealt with in an administrative ordinance instead, Ross said.

“To put it in an ethical context, if you say a commissioner asks a department head to do something that could be grounds for recall, that just seems absurd,” Ross said.

Ross was a character witness for Brown in Wednesday’s ethics hearing, and the two partnered up in a grassroots initiative last year to defeat the proposed regional transportation sales tax that was proposed for the Atlanta area, including Fayette County.

Also at Thursday’s commission meeting, resident Arnold Martin asked the commission to consider increasing the number of ethics board members from three to five.

Resident Dawn Oparah said she felt the commission should make sure the ethics board members are formally trained as well. Oparah said she did not like the way the ethics board members were seated because the process was not advertised to the general public. Brown replied that the new commission is working to get information about such openings to the public for all of the county’s volunteer boards, authorities and commissions.



Robert W. Morgan's picture

Hmmmm, hard to figure why someone would include that specific language. Wonder what they were worried about?

Maybe, just maybe, the authors of said ordinance were trying to curtail the activities of a lone wolf commissioner (or chairman) who has no respect for the chain of command or one who has lost faith in the county manager or county attorney. Think that's the reason for that language?

Live free or die!

I heard in the state house, Georgia is rated near the lowest for ethical standards in the country. Not sure if it is true or not.
But if there are high standards and folks follow them there is a benefit right ? If not then what is the point of having the standards at all ?

Should we ask Comm Brown ? He knows all the things that every one far and wide has done worng for so many years now.

I am sure he knows how to draft tight stringent rules to provide clarity and the proper definition of proper behavior.

And then we can figure out if having defined the standards, if he can follow any of them.


That is correct, I believe articles were posted March 2012, listing GA as the most corrupt state in the nation under "several" categories. Do you know why this is? Because there are few to none, individuals or oversight committees to keep our elected/appointed officials in check = no government openness. Have you ever tried to file a complaint against any of these people, it gets no where. There is no accountability for their actions and you the citizen, the taxpayer, are trampled upon in the long run. There are several articles confirming this but this is the local AJC article: "on public corruption and government openness ranks Georgia last in the nation,"

Ah yes, any chance to hammer Steve Brown and it's off to the races. Why not do the research and hammer specific state legislators who are proven ethics violators--shouldn't be too hard to do--if you're really interested.

hutch866's picture

I thought as of last week, Brown was a 'proven ethics violator', if you're interested.

I yam what I yam

Yeah,you're correct as far as what the decision was by the Ethics Committee--but zero punishment. I think 'intent' was perhaps a factor. BTW,I'm sure you're still pissed at him for not answering your questions during the campaign. I've never met him, never talked to him and will judge him and the other Commissioners by their actions moving forward.

hutch866's picture

If his conduct during the campaign meets your standards good for you. Btw, I'm not 'pissed' at him, he did exactly what I expected of him. He starting off just like I figured he would too.

I yam what I yam

c'mon Hutch, know how you sometmes accuse others of 'putting words in my mouth'? May I suggest 'practicing what you preach'!

hutch866's picture

The operative word there was 'IF'. I put no words in your mouth. But if you can be sure of my feelings, whats the difference.

I yam what I yam

R. Butler's picture

"Brown said Wednesday that he had his fellow commissioner’s permission to request that investigation, which would likely make the ethics complaint moot."

Well--looks like Bob will be taking paper to pen again for another complaint. Since clearly he didn't know of this, it either took place in Executive Session or in violation of the Georgia Open Meetings Law... I am sure Mr. Horgan really has our best interests at heart.

Or, he is determined to make all Fayette County voters pay for his own legal and ethical lapse. As well as our own shortcomings for later deciding not to not re-elect him. What were we thinking.

Mike King's picture

"Or, he is determined to make all Fayette County voters pay for his own legal and ethical lapse."

Certainly, not a first in Fayette County. Mayor Haddix duped the city for $12K before the City Council had the opportunity to review.

All I can say is: the language in the current ordinance must have been written by an attorney? If so, this is representation of unlawful actions by those where we place our trust? . . . . .

Now you tell me that a seating arrangement has something to do with the Committee's ability to make decisions? Pls,spare us from such illogical reasoning and keep that lady off the Ethics Committee!

NUK_1's picture

I'm pretty sure sure uses the word "seated" to mean how the ethics members were chosen originally, not where they are physically seated during a meeting :)

You may be right--if so, then the correct terminology would have been either 'chosen' or 'selected'. I do agree that it seems out of the ordinary for Commissioners to recommend members who may have to sit in judgement of themselves. Sorta reminds me of a self-licking ice cream cone! I say let the current Board of Commissioners work it out!

Josh Bloom's picture

You can't expect to get away with this faux pas without some gentle ribbing from the gallery. Look at definition number 8. Your comment made my entire day!


seat (st)
1. Something, such as a chair or bench, that may be sat on.
a. A place in which one may sit.
b. The right to occupy such a place or a ticket indicating this right: got seats for the concert.
3. The part on which one rests in sitting: a bicycle seat.
a. The buttocks.
b. The part of a garment that covers the buttocks.
a. A part serving as the base of something else.
b. The surface or part on which another part sits or rests.
a. The place where something is located or based: The heart is the seat of the emotions.
b. A center of authority; a capital: the county seat. See Synonyms at center.
7. A place of abode or residence, especially a large house that is part of an estate: the squire's country seat.
8. Membership in an organization, such as a legislative body or stock exchange, that is obtained by appointment, election, or purchase.
9. The manner of sitting on a horse: a fox hunter with a good seat.
v. seat·ed, seat·ing, seats
a. To place in or on a seat.
b. To cause or assist to sit down: The ushers will seat the members of the bride's family.
2. To provide with a particular seat: The usher seated me in the back row.
3. To have or provide seats for: We can seat 300 in the auditorium.
4. To install in a position of authority or eminence.
5. To fix firmly in place: seat an ammunition clip in an automatic rifle.

Anytime I can put a smile on someone's face, I'm happy! And I can handle the ribbing--stop by anytime and take a shot---but leaveyour camera at home!

ginga1414's picture

about the "low ethics standards" in Georgia.

One of our previous commissioners (we all know who) had ethics charges brought against him. The ethics charges went nowhere. However, the Court found him guilty on a couple of charges and placed him on probation. On top of all that, he violated his probation by engaging in the same practices as before.

Now, that same previous commissioner has brought ethics complaints against Steve Brown. Those ethics complaints are part of a vendetta some of our previous commissions are waging against Mr. Brown and our current commission. During one of the first commission meetings this year, another previous commissioner got up during the Public Comments portion of the meeting, went on a tirade directed at the current commission and then he slithered out the side door.

I know there are folks out there who don't like Steve Brown. There are people out there who don't like me. It is impossible to please all of the people all of the time. However, to be given any amount of credibility those folks would need to have attended commission meetings during the past five or six years.

As one of our very involved Fayette citizens says, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." (Dr. Seuss, The Lorax) I'm thankful we have folks like Steve Brown and our current commissioners. They do care "a whole awful lot." Smith, Maxwell, Frady, Horgan and Hearn didn't care one little bit what the citizens of Fayette County thought. They didn't hold a public meeting to "discuss Fayette County's ethics ordinance" or anything else for that matter.

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