DeKalb Ethics Board bars free meals for commissioners

The DeKalb County Board of Ethics on Monday ordered the county’s elected commissioners to refrain from accepting free meals from contractors before or after government meetings.

The board voted 5-1 to approve the directive.

Feeding commissioners creates an appearance of impropriety, according to the Board of Ethics' advisory opinion.

“We’ve put an end to that practice,” said Board of Ethics Chairman John Ernst. “People could wonder if a commissioner is being influenced by close contact with vendors who are providing the meals.”

The Board of Ethics was asked to weigh in on the issue more than two years ago by Morris Williams, who was the Board of Commissioners’ chief of staff. The Ethics Board at the time voted to give guidance to commissioners but didn’t finalize its advisory opinion until Monday.

Williams, who is now a deputy chief operating officer for county infrastructure, had asked whether there were any ethical problems with commissioners participating in project debriefing breakfast and lunch meetings that were voluntarily sponsored by county contractors.

In a separate advisory opinion, the Board of Ethics voted unanimously that DeKalb Director of Public Safety Cedric Alexander may receive payments for speaking engagements as long as his discussion isn’t related to his county job, he’s not appearing before county contractors, and the group he speaks to isn’t receiving any benefit from the county.

Alexander, who holds a doctoral degree in clinical psychology, has been invited to speak at functions outside the scope of his government position in charge of county police.