Gwinnett County: You Can Indict Us, But You Can’t File An Ethics Complaint Against Us

August 8, 2012 20:22 pm

by Charlie · 16 comments

Dear. Lord.

The County that keeps giving us Don Balfour and has a roughly 50-50 chance of any elected commissioner getting indicted decided it needed to strengthen its ethics policies.  (You think?)

Taking a page from the state legislature’s playbook, they decided they would introduce new rules to increase transparency.  And then they exempted themselves from being charged with ethics complaints.  Did I mention greater transparency?  Because I’m sure that’s the part they wanted you to notice.  From WSB-TV:

Gwinnett Co. policy prevents ethics complaints against incumbents Channel 2 Action News has discovered a loophole in the Gwinnett County ethics policy that some believe protects county officials seeking re-election.

Gwinnett commissioners approved the ethics policy last year to improve transparency, especially in relation to any business dealings that could financially benefit elected officials.

But, they added a clause that puts ethics complaints leveled at incumbents on hold for six months.

Yes, it is true that ethics complaints can be filed against incumbents purely as a campaign tactic, something that Commissioner Beaudreau claims in the above story.  And the people I trust in Gwinnett still say he’s one of the good guys.  Yet with the deck generally stacked in favor of incumbents, insulating and exempting yourself from any complaint is an abuse of power.

In a county with the current record of ethics and legal violations among incumbents, putting this policy in place is, in fact, a victory for transparency.  It should be very transparent by now that the system is rigged in favor of incumbents, with voters finding it more and more difficult to be able to hold them accountable.

By the way, all of you fine people in Gwinnett that keep pointing to MARTA and Hartsfield Jackson Airport as bastions of corruption: Why do you strain so hard to see the City of Atlanta’s skyline when you have a plank of corruption lodged squarely in your own eyes?

Daddy Got A Gun August 8, 2012 at 8:54 pm

When I was growing up in Philadelphia, one of our city councilman got caught up in ABSCAM. When he got out of prison, he ran for his old job back. His line was … sure I was stealing but think about what I could steal for YOU. He won.

seekingtounderstand August 8, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Ok, so what do we do about it? I live in a county with a commissioner who is probably going to go back in office in the up coming run off election. Why because the local newspaper is run by his cousin and the public is uniformed. Lesss than 10% will vote, maybe more since a congressional seat is open, maybe 15% will vote.
Most people are working hard and raising a family that they have no idea who to vote for and doing the work seems like a monumental tasks. Hey they voted for Pres. Obama because he was cool and he told them what they wanted to hear.
Until we, those that are informed, start giving the masses an easy way to do a quick education or check list prior to voting…………..this will continue. The system works for incumbents.
Dear Voters: Keep this card as a reminder to take a few minutes to MAKE YOUR VOTE COUNT!
First Step…..go to gov. and check the ballot. This will save you time on vote day.
Step two….Check an incumbents voting record at www. gov and check canidates web sites.
Step three……here is a list of organizations to check on if you have a concern about a specific issue. A complete list can be found at http://www.com
If short on time just do not vote for incumbant as elected officals should not be a life career but a few years of service to society as was the intention of our founding fathers.
Once in office incumbents have enough friends and family to stay. We need more voters to show up.

Jimmie August 9, 2012 at 8:36 pm

Just say NO to Beaudreau!

Calypso August 9, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Hey Jimmie, what happened to your prediction that Gwinnett was going to vote Mike out? He barely missed not needing a run-off at all–just a few hundred more votes and he would have the majority in a four man race. That’s pretty solid.

Jimmie August 10, 2012 at 9:05 pm

This is where he loses! All of the, anyone but Beaudreau votes, will now vote for Hunter.

Calypso August 10, 2012 at 9:29 pm

right…

SabrinaWorks247 August 9, 2012 at 6:59 am

Our elected officials in Gwinnett claim they are working to restore trust in local government. What a joke! They shrug off legitimate questions and act as if we are crazy for even bothering them with requests for information that are repeatedly ignored. I guess they are too busy “serving their constituents” and have not read the news about the indictments, bribes, ethics complaints, questionable land deals, trash plan that they say is award-winning and a great success, Braves Stadium plagued with surprising cost overruns, money-losing golf course, questionable rezoning decisions, controversial airport plan that included a commissioner offering to sell her vote to an undercover FBI agent, etc. They seem to think that because they have not been indicted and they claim to have only the best of intentions, we should just accept everything they do without question.

Beaudreau also said he stands by his record of transparency and openness. As it relates to the ethics policy, he said that clause is a fly trap which caught the fly it was intended to in this case.

So Beaudreau is happy that his ethics policy worked as “intended” by deflecting an ethics complaint until after his re-election campaign? Wow. And they wonder why Gwinnett residents don’t trust their elected officials!

Jackster August 9, 2012 at 7:18 am

There’s a key sentence in that report which you seemed to have missed, ignored, or laughed off:WSB was not able to substantiate that guy’s claims. (That’s why they had to do the story on the loophole and not the actual complaint.).

Buzz Brockway August 9, 2012 at 8:25 am

Not much of what Joe Newton says can ever be substantiated.

The BoC needs to close this loophole ASAP. Politically motivated ethics complaints are bad but special rules for incumbents is not the answer.

Jackster August 9, 2012 at 9:11 am

@Buzz – I thought it was interesting that WSB put on David Hancock, who just his primary to Rob Woodall on, saying he was with the “Citizens for a Better Gwinnett”…

So that has me wondering if he’s losing credibility as well, given the fact that this Joe Newton guy is bringing half baked claims to the table.

I don’t know if he (Hancock) has a history with this group, but there was no mention of them during his primary run. That would have sounded a helluva lot more convincing than COO of a smaller company.

RetiredGolfer August 9, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Hi Jackster: You are correct that the story was about the loophole and not the complaint. David Hancock was asked to comment on Gwinnett’s ethics policy and was not given any information on any specific complaint or who filed it. I agree with David’s statement, as it seems that no other county in Georgia has an exemption for incumbents running for re-election in their ethics policy.

SabrinaWorks247 August 9, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Hi Jackster: I have not seen the complaint and just from what I know about Mike, I would not think that he would cheat on an expense account. The issue that truly surprises me is that our elected officials in Gwinnett, even the honest ones, seem tone deaf to voter distrust. With the track record we have in Gwinnett County, you would think that they would bend over backwards to have an ethics policy that removes any question of preferential treatment for commissioners, so that they look squeaky clean. I read in the AJC that Gwinnett County is the only county in Georgia with an ethics policy that includes a free pass like this for incumbents.

Buzz Brockway August 9, 2012 at 8:22 am

Sabrina,

The “fly” these new ethics rules caught was Shirley Lassiter. They helped nail her cheating heart.

Jackster August 9, 2012 at 10:01 pm

While Mr. Beaudreau is not my Commissioner (I’m getting a new one! yay!), I must say that I’m fairly impressed with the way he handles himself.

And the loophole is amazing; I’m glad now after reading this that Mr. Hancock was on hand to give Gwinnett some credibility. Not sure what the WSB producers would have done to fill that soundbyte void.

Probably recycled some tsploost footage.

Jane August 9, 2012 at 11:27 pm

I like Mike, but we need to make an example of those moderates who opposed the privatization of the airport.

Calypso August 10, 2012 at 6:26 am

Briscoe Field going private with limited scheduled service would have been a good thing.

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