A judge ruled Friday that members of the DeKalb County Board of Ethics shouldn’t have been appointed by private organizations, a decision that likely cripples the board.
DeKalb Superior Court Judge Asha Jackson’s order found that the Board of Ethics should have been chosen by elected government officials, not by outside groups like the DeKalb Bar Association and the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce.
The decision is a victory for former DeKalb Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton, who sued the Board of Ethics as she was facing complaints about her spending. She has said all her spending was for legitimate government purposes.
“To pass constitutional muster, it would seem that there should be an accountable governmental entity that would provide final approval to those seated to serve on the board,” Jackson wrote.
Sutton said the decision shows that an overhaul to the Board of Ethics to make it more independent should have been more thoroughly vetted.
“This shows that when reasonable people stand up for what’s right, you win sometimes,” Sutton said.
The DeKalb Board of Ethics was restructured in 2015 to remove its appointments from the DeKalb Commission and CEO, whose behavior is monitored by the board.
About 92 percent of voters supported the changes, which made four of the board’s members picked by non-governmental groups, two by judges and one by the county’s state legislative delegation.
An attorney for the DeKalb Board of Ethics said an appeal is possible.