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New setup approved for ethics panel

Previous board gets one last complaint

POSTED: November 18, 2012 12:33 a.m.
 

Forsyth County commissioners approved a new style of ethics panel on Thursday, and they charged the outgoing board with hearing one last complaint.

The commission voted 5-0 to change the county ethics ordinance to replace the current group of five appointed residents with a pool of on-call attorneys.

Under the new setup, County Attorney Ken Jarrard said, three out-of-county lawyers would be randomly selected to hear a matter when a complaint is filed.

“The hope is that this will take any potential element of conflict of interest or associational interests out of the equation altogether,” Jarrard said.

He added that the new ordinance also removes the board’s ability to investigate, since it will assemble only to hear a complaint.

In addition, the changes delete the wrongful use provision in the code, which states that filer of a frivolous complaint is responsible for repaying associated costs and fees.

Though any future complaints will fall under the new rules, one lodged Oct. 19 will be the last considered by the current panel.

One of the five members has resigned, but the commission approved a resolution Thursday that will allow the remaining four to gather until the process for that complaint is completed.

The complaint from county resident William Dunn names Michael Mahoney, an assistant district attorney, and refers to a plea deal reached in a case Oct. 4.

In that matter, Charles McElroy Turner of Lumpkin County had been indicted on two counts of impersonating a police officer and two counts of false imprisonment.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of disorderly conduct and received 24 months of probation, community service and a $1,000 fine, in addition to other conditions.

In his ethics complaint, Dunn contends “political pressure” on the district attorney’s office led to the plea with reduced charges.

He also maintains he was not properly notified about the matter in Forsyth County Superior Court.

Per county rules, Mahoney must reply within 30 days and the ethics board must complete an investigatory review within 60 days.

In this matter, the usual hearing officer, Logan Butler, recused himself and attorney George Weaver will serve in his absence, Jarrard said.

He also noted the board will also need to have a November meeting, in accordance with the former requirements.

 

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