Clayton ethics task force to address accountability of officeholders

UPDATE: Clayton County Schools Superintendent

Morcease Beasley, in an email Thursday, said, “The state Constitution outlines that the local Board of Education is responsible to adhering to rules and policies of the state Board of Education. There is currently no legal basis for a local Board of Education to yield its authority to an independent citizens’ task force no matter how well intended or organized. Under current laws, a citizens’ task force will have no authority that exceeds the state’s laws governing local boards of education.”

ORIGINAL STORY: Clayton voters may soon have another avenue from which to voice their frustrations over ethical issues in county government.

However, critics say it would duplicate an existing oversight body that few citizens are using.

After receiving dozens of complaints from Clayton residents about the ineffectiveness of Clayton’s Ethics Board, state Rep. Valencia Stovall, D-Forest Park, said she and about 30 citizens are launching a task force to study ways taxpayers can play a bigger role in who is recommended to the oversight body, such as public nominations.

“The current ethics board for the county is not hearing all the complaints or answering questions in a timely manner,” said Stovall, who added that an oversight body is also needed for the school board.

But Clayton Ethics Board Chairman said Stovall’s assessment of the organization is way off. He said his office is underused by the public and that he encourages residents to file claims.

“I’m always open to discuss,” said Nix, adding that the community rumbles often about issues but few take the next step and file specific allegations.

The discussion comes as Clayton residents grapple with a latest dispute between the Clayton Commission and the county's Development Authority over millions in taxpayer funding. Commissioner Michael Edmondson's behavior has been called into question because he refused to recuse himself from several votes this year The votes were tied to authority funding.

Clayton Commission Chairman Jeff Turner said he’s happy to have a discussion on improving ethics in the county, but is not convinced there is a need for a task force.

“I’m not saying I’m opposed to what she’s proposing, but without her sharing her thoughts with me, I have nothing to guide me in terms of whether I would supportive of this or not,” he said.

Stoval said she plans to introduce legislation during next year’s General Assembly to form the ethics board to oversee the school board for Clayton’s School System.

“It’s not like no one knew there was a problem with ethics” in Clayton County, she said. “That’s why I’m taking the initiative.”