Clayton Commission Chairman Jeff Turner had sought to hold appointments to the Clayton Development Authority until the new year. FILE PHOTO

Clayton ethics board calls county commission’s December vote unethical

The Clayton Ethics Board has reprimanded two current members and one past member of the Clayton County Commission over a controversial vote the commission took at its last meeting of 2018.

Ethics leaders said earlier this week that current Commissioners Gail Hambrick and Sonna Singleton Gregory and former Commissioner Michael Edmondson erred when they pushed through a Dec. 18 vote for a member of the Clayton Development Authority board.

The vote on the appointment should not have taken place because the question was put on the agenda after the deadline for adding agenda items, the ethics board ruled.

“The board of ethics finds that the actions of the three commissioners … disregarded procedural rules established by the board of commissioners for the governing of commission meetings,” ethics board attorney Jim Elliott told the commission Tuesday, “and avoiding among other things public perception that items can be added to an agenda at the last minute, preventing public input and adequate opportunity to study and address the issues by the remaining commissioners.”

Hambrick, Gregory and Edmondson could not be reached for comment.

While the ruling could be seen as a minor quibble, it addresses a controversy that was a big deal at the time in the south metro community. The five-member commission in late December had broken into camps, with Hambrick, Gregory and Edmondson in one and Chairman Jeff Turner and Commissioner Felicia Franklin in the other.

Edmondson, a former chairman of the authority, had lost the election to retain his commission seat a month earlier, and Turner wanted to hold all appointments to the development authority until the next year when the new commissioner would begin his term.

“Any commissioner in my opinion that would vote to allow this to remain on the agenda would be in violation of our ordinance and their vote, in my opinion, would be unethical,” Turner said during the meeting.

But when he sought to remove the appointment from the agenda, he was rebuffed by Hambrick, Gregory and Edmondson, who voted 3-2 to keep it on.

“The board finds that such actions violating the letter of the county ordinance, undermined the confidence of the Clayton County citizenry in their elected officials and raised serious questions of the ethical standards to which some elected officials hold themselves,” Elliottt said of the ethics board ruling. “These questions undermine the integrity of the board of commissioners. If the board refuses to follow the rules it has established, why should citizens respect other county laws.”

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