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Head of ethics panel steps down
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Forsyth County News


Citing what he called public ridicule and a "fatally flawed" governing ordinance, the chairman of the Forsyth County Board of Ethics has resigned after 11 years.

George Pirkle, who was appointed to the five-member panel by the Forsyth County Civil Service Board, submitted his letter of resignation late Friday.

That was a day after Terry Smith, vice chairman of the civil service board, criticized the ethics panel in a meeting, saying it was reluctant to investigate complaints.

Pirkle said he was angered by the comments. He also received a phone call Friday from someone claiming a county commissioner had described the ethics board as a waste of taxpayer dollars.

"I cannot remember a time that I was so angry," Pirkle said. "So I just sat down and batted out my letter of resignation."

The letter includes the statement that "the last straw is comments made by currently seated commissioners who have characterized our efforts as a waste of taxpayers' money."

Pirkle said he later learned none of the commissioners had said anything against the ethics board.

"I feel bad for having implied in the letter of resignation that the commission would have made a statement like that because, quite honestly, if the commission felt that we were a waste of taxpayer money they would've shut us down a long time ago," Pirkle said. "I have no doubt about that."

Smith's comments stemmed from the ethics board's decision to send a complaint against former Planning Commissioner Brant Meadows back to the civil service board over a couple of technical deficiencies.

Meadows had been accused of threatening three county employees in 2009 and 2010. The allegations surfaced during a hearing before the civil service tribunal, to which former Planning Director Jeff Chance had appealed his termination. 

The ethics board dismissed two of the employee complaints, citing timeline requirements.

It asked the civil service board members to sign the complaint individually and to resubmit it with physical evidence, such as a transcript from the hearing, of the third grievance against Meadows.

Pirkle said he thinks the county commission has the right to correct or criticize the ethics board.

"But a sister board like the civil service board does not have that prerogative, nor does a member of that board," Pirkle said. "Of course, that's just my opinion."

He said he hand-delivered the letter to Dana Miles' office. Miles, a local attorney, serves as the civil service board's hearing officer.

Pirkle also e-mailed the letter to his fellow board members and County Manager Doug Derrer.

He added that he'd been considering resigning from his post for a long time and that he has felt inadequate to serve in such a position.

He said board members do not receive training in ethics, though one member is an attorney appointed by the local bar association.

He suggested the ordinance the ethics board follows should be inspected "with a fine-toothed comb."

Pirkle, who is diabetic, said his medical condition also played a role in his resignation.

"I feel like a dead hippo has been lifted off my shoulders," he said. "Because like I said, I've never felt like I was really the person for the job."