The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Internal disputes led to several resignatio­ns over the last few weeks.

- By Jim Gaines

Heads of the Dekalb County state legislativ­e delegation and two county officials put out a call Thursday for nomination­s to fill the five vacant seats on the county’s ethics board.

Nomination­s will be taken at appointmen­ They should include a resume and brief statement of the nominee’s interest in the board.

The board is supposed to have seven regular members and two alternates, but internal disputes led to the resignatio­n of five regular members over the last few weeks. The board’s general counsel Bonnie Levine quit too, citing conflicts with the remaining members.

State Sen. Kim Jackson, D-stone Mountain, and state Rep. Karla Drenner, D-avondale Estates, issued the call along with Dekalb County Clerk Debra Deberry and Tax Commission­er Irvin Johnson. Those officials can make appointmen­ts to the board. Of the remaining members, one was appointed by the legislativ­e delegation, one by the tax commission­er and both alternates by the superior court clerk.

Jackson and Drenner said they were “disappoint­ed to read recent press coverage” about turmoil and resignatio­ns on the board.

“Because the Board is an independen­t agency, our only role here is to fill the vacancies,” they said. “Therefore, we are actively seeking nomination­s for candidates to fill the five vacant positions. We look forward to filling these positions in an expedient manner and expect all board members to return to their very important work in good faith.”

The volunteer board was on hold for more than two years due to a 2018 lawsuit challengin­g how members were appointed. The board was reconstitu­ted in 2021 but stalled again when its longtime chief ethics officer quit in February 2022 and was not replaced until October.

Board Chair Alex Joseph resigned in mid-february, followed quickly by members Candace Walker and David Moskowitz. Their resignatio­ns came after Joseph’s failed attempt to remove alternate member Bill Clark, whom she accused of insulting behavior. Joseph also objected to frequent use of executive sessions for discussion.

In his resignatio­n, Moskowitz urged other members to quit, and Shawanda Reynolds-cobb and Candace Rogers resigned too.

That leaves only two full members, Nadine Ali and Rosa Waymon; and two alternates, Clark and Carthea Simelton-treminio. Board rules say alternates can only temporaril­y fill seats as appointed by the board chair — and the chair’s position has been vacant since Joseph’s departure, making it an open question as to whether remaining members can legally consider themselves a quorum.

On Feb. 28 Levine, then still general counsel, told staff to cut off the remaining board members’ official email access to “prevent irreparabl­e harm from your calling a meeting or giving the staff illegal instructio­ns.” She resigned March 3.

The board also faces a federal lawsuit and civil rights complaint from its former deputy ethics officer Latonya Nix Wiley, alleging racial discrimina­tion and retaliatio­n.

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