DeKalb Ethics Board filled out amid inquiries

DeKalb County CEO Lee May restored the county Board of Ethics to full strength Friday, replacing an inactive member as the board investigates several complaints against county commissioners and employees.

May appointed Robert Blackman, a Vietnam War veteran and a member of the county Code Enforcement Advisory Committee, to replace board member Isaac Blythers, whose term expired Dec. 31.

Blackman’s addition to the board gives it another potential vote as it decides whether to take action on pending cases involving three commissioners, several employees and former DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis, who faces trial in September on charges that he strong-armed county vendors into giving campaign contributions.

The seven-member Ethics Board needs five votes to reprimand, suspend or remove officials from office.

Ethics cases are pending against Commissioners Elaine Boyer, Larry Johnson and Sharon Barnes Sutton based on complaints that they used their county purchasing cards to buy personal items.

The Ethics Board plans to review Tuesday the progress of investigations of Boyer, Ellis, suspended Purchasing Director Kelvin Walton and former county secretary Nina Hall.

Walton, a key witness in the case against Ellis, allegedly accepted gifts from county vendors and funneled cash to Hall, who served on several selection committees for county projects, according to the ethics complaints against them.

May previously sought to appoint Terrance Thornton, whom he knew from business circles in south DeKalb, but May withdrew Thornton from consideration in April after learning Thornton’s financial history included a foreclosure and late tax payments.

Blackman, who was appointed to a seven-year term, worked for Ford Motor Company for more than 30 years and Anvil Business Services for more than 20 years. He’s been a DeKalb County resident for 30 years.

John Ernst will remain the board’s chairman.