Despite challenge, Leadership DeKalb appoints Lake to Ethics Board

Leadership DeKalb has appointed attorney Sheri Lake to the Board of Ethics despite a court ruling that community organizations like this should not have such power. Lake is a family law attorney and partner in the Smith & Lake law firm.

Superior Court Judge Asha Jackson ruled last year that all seven board members should be appointed by elected officials and not outside groups. The Ethics Board appealed, and the Georgia Supreme Court recently heard testimony on the case.

While the appeal is pending, the board has continued to operate, and vacant seats have been filled according to the current law. Most recently, the board fined former DeKalb Commissioner Stan Watson $9,000 for using secret accounts to raise money from county vendors and for using county resources for campaign activities.

In 2015, DeKalb voters agreed to restructure the Board of Ethics after a stream of corruption cases involving elected officials. Instead of the county CEO and commissioners appointing members, several outside groups would be allowed to choose.

In addition to Leadership DeKalb, the county's Chamber of Commerce, Bar Association and a consortium of area universities currently appoint members to the ethics board and were the focus of the challenge filed by former Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton.

Three seats on the board are still controlled by elected officials and have not been questioned. The DeKalb legislative delegation, chief judge of DeKalb Superior Court and judge of DeKalb Probate Court each appoint one member.