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Changes to ethics code considered
First hearing set for next month
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Forsyth County News


Forsyth County commissioners will consider some proposed changes to a section in the ethics code dealing with conflict-of-interest transactions.

The ordinance sets forth provisions for the county entering into contracts with businesses in which officials or employees have an interest.

During a work session Tuesday, commissioners voted 5-0 to hold the two public hearings required before voting on the change. The first hearing has been set for Feb. 16.

The commission did not discuss the proposal. The item was last on the agenda of a session that had already delayed a planning commission meeting set for 6:30 p.m.

Three county commissioners are required to attend planning board meetings.

Thursday County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the considered changes arose with some commissioners who had concern about the code’s current stance on conflict-of-interest transactions.

Commission Chairman Jim Boff said it was not his suggestion.

“I was learning about it as everybody else was,” he said. “I’m not sure what the motivation or if there’s a problem that’s created by the current wording of that that they’re trying to solve.”

“From what I heard, I didn’t see anything that was alarming enough to say no we can’t bring this before the public.”

Jarrard said he wasn’t aware of any current issues that would be affected by the modifications.

According to Jarrard, the first subsection in the code would prohibit officials from taking action on contracts in which they have an actual conflict of interest.

“But then, subsection B says the county will not enter contract with an entity in which a public official or employee is a principal,” Jarrard said.

“You go from a situation of really worrying in [subsection] A about whether there’s a true conflict ... In B, it doesn’t matter whether there’s a conflict or not, we just can’t do it.”

The modification would seek to determine whether a true conflict exists.

If not, the county could enter into a contract provided the employee or official who is a principal meets five conditions.

Those include: “no official act or duty related to the contract,” a competitive bid process, the individual discloses the business affiliation, the person submits a written statement to the purchasing department affirming no advantages have been received due to county relationship and the contract is not prohibited by law.

“What I’ve tried to do is set a check and balance in here that accomplishes the ability to make sure there’s an actual conflict before someone’s disqualified from doing business with the county,” Jarrard said during the work session Tuesday.