The changes are in response to some of the issues raised during the last — and only — Ethics Review Board hearing, including recommendations from the Review Board that some clarifications were needed.
County Attorney Jim Fortune addressed one of those, explaining the addition of a definition of “official act,” which he admitted to struggling with without using the word “official” in the definition. Fortune’s recommended definition was “acts taken within the capacity as commissioner in the performance of duties.”
Another proposed change is to not make it a violation to owe funds or penalties related to election financial reporting, since due to the problems on the state end with notification, that all of the commissioners were in violation at some point. Fortune recommended it be a violation only if the fines have not been paid within 90 days of notice of the fines and that these be checked periodically to see if there are any overdue fines.
There was also a recommendation to change the requirements for Ethics Review Board nominees, from separate commission district residents to only being a resident of the county and a registered voter. Fortune also recommended a change in the method nominees were selected to serve.
He proposed drawing two names for each commissioner, with the first being the member and the second being the alternate. Currently the names are drawn, following exclusion of the nominees of the accused commissioner, with the first three drawn to serve and alternates selected in the order drawn from the next names selected.
Commission Chairman Gwen Flowers-Taylor, who was the subject of the last ethics hearing, and who was found to not be in violation, asked for a better definition of the board. “Do we need to define what the review board is, what they’re there for? We don’t really define what it is.”
Fortune said the current ordinance “pretty well spells out what they do,” but Flowers-Taylor said “I think it needs to be defined.”
She also questioned the language that allows any commissioner to dismiss at any time any of the commissioners appointees.
“We don’t do that with any of our other boards,” Flowers-Taylor said. “I think we’re stepping out of bounds from what we do with the other boards.”
Fortune and Commissioner Raymond Ray noted the review board, unlike the others boards, does not meet regularly and is only convened if needed, so there’s not an attendance requirement like with the other boards.
Fortune was instructed to clean up some of the other language in the ordinance, with plans for a first reading on proposed changes at the Feb. 18 meeting.