DeKalb group seeks to spark government overhaul

A group of DeKalb County citizens demanded government reform Tuesday night, launching an effort to transform a government riddled by accusations of corruption.

About 100 people attended the meeting of Blueprint DeKalb, an attempt to improve ethics and transparency by pressuring state lawmakers to make changes in a variety of areas.

Proposals include creating an internal auditor to watch over taxpayer money, strengthening purchasing rules, making the Board of Ethics more independent and asking voters to consider term limits.

“The citizens of DeKalb County are sick and tired,” said Brenda Pace, a member of the Blueprint DeKalb leadership team and an active south DeKalb resident. “We need to hold our elected officials accountable.”

The Blueprint DeKalb movement arose as suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis is on trial, Commissioner Elaine Boyer resigned and pleaded guilty to fraud, and ethics complaints are pending against each remaining county commissioner.

The group’s organizers — speaking to a crowd seated in the same Decatur auditorium where the DeKalb Commission meets — asked supporters to build momentum for their proposals by rallying their communities and calling their representatives in the Georgia General Assembly.

“We need to fix the county government, inside and out,” said Harmel Codi, an Ellenwood resident who attended the meeting.

The group’s proposals include:

  • An internal auditor responsible for investigating misconduct, waste, fraud and financial compliance. The auditor would be independent, reporting to a citizen oversight committee, and its funding would be set at a percentage of at least 0.1 percent of the county’s annual budget — about $1.2 million.
  • Independent member appointments and dedicated funding for the DeKalb County Board of Ethics. Appointments could be handled by outside organizations such as bar associations, the League of Women Voters, Leadership DeKalb, civic organizations or universities.
  • Online access to DeKalb financial information, as well as purchasing policies approved by the DeKalb Commission rather than the county’s chief executive.
  • A straw-poll on the ballot to gauge voter interest in term limits for elected officials of eight, 12 or more years.

One of the group’s members, retired high school principal Gil Turman, said a government overhaul is needed to make DeKalb a better place to live.

“We’re a laughingstock. The whole thing fell apart,” Turman said. “We need the opportunity to come together and restore what we once had.”

Blueprint DeKalb’s members encouraged the community to meet with the county’s state representatives and senators at town hall meetings this month.

Those meetings are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Oct. 13 at Brookhaven City Hall, Oct. 21 at the Maloof Auditorium in Decatur, and Oct. 28 at the Porter Sanford Center in Decatur.

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