DeKalb reforms win final approval from state Senate

The Georgia Legislature passed three bills Tuesday overhauling DeKalb County’s government by creating a government financial watchdog position, reconstituting the county Board of Ethics and tightening purchasing rules.

The measures were approved by the state Senate and now go to Gov. Nathan Deal.

The legislation is designed to bring more transparency and accountability to a county government where several public officials have been accused of criminal wrongdoing. Former Commissioner Elaine Boyer was sentenced last week to serve 14 months in prison to bilking taxpayers of more than $100,000, and suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis faces a retrial in June on charges that he allegedly extorted campaign contributions from county contractors.

The independent auditor position, mandated under House Bill 599, would be responsible for finding fraud and improving government efficiency. The position has been discussed by the DeKalb Commission for years without it being filled.

The Board of Ethics measure, House Bill 597, gives the authority to appoint board members to outside community organizations rather than the DeKalb Commission. The legislation also removes from the Board of Ethics its power to remove elected officials from office, an ability the board never used.

The purchasing policy legislation, House Bill 598, requires sealed bids for all purchases exceeding $50,000 and commission approval for all purchases exceeding $100,000.

These initiatives arose from months of efforts by two groups: the DeKalb Operations Task Force, a group of lawmakers and community leaders appointed by Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May to recommend reforms; and Blueprint DeKalb, a citizen group that sought to improve the county’s governance.

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