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Hearing Wednesday likely last for ethics panel
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Forsyth County News

The outgoing Forsyth County Board of Ethics could meet for the final time Wednesday.

County commissioners last month approved an overhaul of the five-member appointed resident board in favor of a pool of out-of-county attorneys.

The new panel will assemble only if a complaint or request for an advisory opinion is filed, and the members will include three randomly selected attorneys from a list of nine to 15 that have been pre-qualified.

The intent of the commissioner-initiated changes is to remove any potential or perceived conflicts by bringing in a disinterested group to hear the evidence in an ethics issue.

Any future complaints will fall under the new rules. However, a pending complaint filed Oct. 19 will be the final task of the outgoing group.

The ethics board will assemble at 10 a.m. Wednesday for an investigatory review on the complaint William Dunn lodged against Michael Mahoney, an assistant district attorney in Forsyth County.

The review is intended “to determine whether specific substantiated evidence from a creditable source exists to support a reasonable belief” of an ethics violation, according to the code.

The board can either dismiss the complaint or grant a hearing following the review.

Dunn’s complaint addresses a plea deal reached Oct. 4 in a Forsyth County Superior Court case.

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.

The response to the complaint, filed Nov. 15 by District Attorney Penny Penn, states that the county ethics board is “not the appropriate place” to hear the issue since Mahoney is a state constitutional officer rather than a county employee.

Penn continued that the plea deal is “the exercise of prosecutorial discretion.”

The alleged lack of notification, she writes, is not an issue covered by the county’s code of ethics.

Dunn followed up Nov. 15 by submitting additional records from the case file and e-mails regarding the plea deal.