Dekalb Ethics Reform on Nov 2020 Ballot

While many of you have already early voted, I wanted to be sure everyone knew about a comically vague referendum on the DeKalb ballot.

“Shall the Act be approved which revises the Board of Ethics for DeKalb County?”

If you have no idea what is in “the Act”, how do you know how to vote? It takes some googling to even find “the Act” and it is pages that are incomprehensible if you don’t know the issues.

This is not a political blog. It’s a neighborhood blog. That said I thought it important while you may be trying hard to decide between Donald Trump and Joe Biden to not forget local issues which arguably may be more impactful on your everyday life.

With all of the chicanery in DeKalb with the ethics board, there is no way to know if the revisions are a good thing or a bad thing without context. The DeKalb board of ethics has been inactive since the Supreme Court in 2018 ruled that its current board member appointment was unconstitutional because the board was appointed by private agencies and was not subject to public review.

This is especially important to watch because in the 2019 vote, citizen watchdog groups urged people to vote “No” on a similar sounding reform. Ethics are good. Reform is good. But in 2019, 61% of DeKalb voters said the proposed ethics reform was worse than no reform. The DeKalb Citizens Advisory Council said that the reform gave that county CEO and Board of Commissioners too much power. Mary Hinkel of the DeKalb Citizens Advisory Council campaigned hard against the bill, stating:

“I don’t think passing a flawed bill is the way to get the ethics board back in action…..”We needed that kind of majority to send a message to the delegation.”

For the 2020 election, the DeKalb Citizens Advisory Council is now advising for you to vote “yes”. One of the biggest changes they cite is that the 2019 bill required employees who have ethics complaints to go through internal HR resources prior to the Ethics Board. As we have seen with so many organizations nationally from the Olympics to major religious groups, a requirement to internally report ethics violations can often allow those alleged violations to be covered up prior to a real investigation. This new bill was passed to much fanfare in June of this year but now needs to be voted on at the ballot box.

I’d advise you to research the ethics reform and decide for yourself, but it is important to realize that this major electoral issue from 2019 is back on the ballot and multiple community activists have come out in favor of voting “yes” on this year’s bill.

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