DeKalb Ethics Board member resigns after argument

A member of the DeKalb County Board of Ethics resigned Thursday after telling a county employee to “come outside” to settle their differences.

Ethics Board member Robert Blackman stepped down because of the heated argument Tuesday with Bob Lundsten, the chief of staff for ex-Commissioner Elaine Boyer, during the board’s meeting.

The spat occurred when Blackman questioned Lundsten about his allegation that Board of Ethics Chairman John Ernst had failed to be impartial.

Then Lundsten accused Blackman of being biased against him and said the ethics board member called him “slick” at a previous meeting in December. Blackman denied Tuesday he had called Lundsten any names. Lundsten responded by saying Blackman was lying, using a vulgarity.

That’s when Blackman said Lundsten could meet him outside. Other Ethics Board members urged them to calm down, and the meeting moved on.

Blackman defended his actions in an interview with The Champion newspaper, which covers DeKalb news, after Tuesday’s meeting.

“If he (Lundsten) thinks he wants to get saucy, we can step out into the alley out there,” Blackman said. “… Listen, I came from the old school. … I come out from the days that you go out and get it done.”

Board of Ethics Chairman John Ernst said he hopes Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May quickly appoints a replacement for Blackman. Five county commissioners are facing ethics complaints, but no current commissioner has been found to have violated ethics rules.

“We have too much on our plate to be distracted,” Ernst said.

Commissioner Nancy Jester placed Lundsten on administrative leave Thursday after an internal review. Lundsten has submitted his resignation papers to the county. He had already been planning to step down after helping Jester, who was elected in December to replace Boyer, transition into the job.

An ethics complaint is also pending against Lundsten. It alleged he misused his county purchasing card for personal expenses in a similar way that Boyer did. Boyer resigned and pleaded guilty to federal charges in September.

Lundsten’s complaint against Ernst arose from an October interview with Channel 2 Action News in which Ernst compared unethical employees to termites. Ernst has said he didn’t comment about Lundsten except to answer a procedural question.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.