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New ethics panel not yet called

Out-of-county lawyers will hear complaints

POSTED: May 12, 2013 12:30 a.m.

A dozen attorneys have been on call this year as part of Forsyth County’s new ethics panel, but none has been asked to serve yet.

Commissioners overhauled the appointed county ethics board in November with the panel, which allows out-of-county lawyers to be selected at random when a complaint is filed or an advisory opinion sought.

The intent was to remove any potential or perceived conflicts of interest.

In January, the ethics board reviewed its final complaint, which had been filed before the adoption of the new ordinance on Nov. 15.

Since then, the pool of 12 qualified attorneys has been assembled, but no requests for the panel’s services have come in.

Clerk Kathy Echols said she contacted 17 lawyers who were on the list for the nearby city of Milton, which has a similar ethics panel arrangement.

“From there, we sent letters to them all giving them the qualifications and asking them if they’d be willing to serve,” Echols said.

Of those, a dozen attorneys in good standing who neither live nor work in Forsyth agreed to serve on the panel.

Eight practice at firms based in Alpharetta, three in Atlanta and one from Johns Creek.

The ordinance requires the attorneys to have at least five years’ experience practicing law, with at least three years in civil litigation.

Also, the attorneys and their family members cannot have worked for Forsyth, have a business relationship with the county or have provided campaign contributions to elected officials.

The ordinance requires a list of nine to 15 qualified attorneys to be maintained.

If a complaint or request for an advisory opinion is made, Echols said she will randomly select three attorneys and one alternate from a hat.

“Then, they will be contacted to see if they have any conflicts at that time or if they are available to serve,” she said.

The ordinance states that those selected will be paid an equal daily rate for their time, to be determined by the county commission.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard said that amount hasn’t been set.

“My expectation would be that as soon as there is an ethics complaint or an ethics question raised,” Jarrard said, “we’ll have to go to the board and have a resolution adopted to set their per diem, or their rate.”



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