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DeKalb Ethics Board debates political appointments

The DeKalb County Board of Ethics floated the idea Thursday of preventing politicians from appointing board members.

The proposal, similar to a reform pitched by the Blueprint DeKalb group, didn't go far.

Several Board of Ethics members said they already operate independently of the county commissioners and CEO who currently handle appointments. Board members also questioned whether appointments by community groups would be any better.

"There's no way on God's Earth I would have gotten on this board to kiss up to anybody," said Robert Blackman, who was appointed by Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May in June. "I'm a straight shooter, and I don't fall in love with anybody. I don't have friends anymore. I just know right from wrong."

Gene Chapman, the board's attorney, said ethics boards across the country have community organizations make appointments as a best practice.

"The goal is to reduce any perception that these are political appointments -- that there may be some hidden agenda in these appointments," Chapman said.

But board members Clara Black-Delay and Thelma Grier said they worried about outside groups picking their closest associates to the board. They feared the process would exclude community members who weren't members of those organizations.

Those organizations could include several proposed by Blueprint DeKalb: the DeKalb County Bar Association, Gate City Bar Association, DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce, DeKalb League of Women Voters, Leadership DeKalb, DeKalb County Civic Association Network and several universities.

Board member Susan Neugent said the proposal attempted to prevent potential conflicts of interest between board members and the elected officials they're investigating.

Neugent soon acknowledged that the board wasn't close to agreeing.

"If this idea has a time for this board, it is not tonight," she said.

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About the Author

Mark Niesse covers Georgia government.

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