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07 May 2018

South Fulton Considers 90-Day Moratorium on Ethics Enforcement

Two South Fulton City Council members introduced an ordinance that delays ethics enforcement in the new city for 90 days.

The proposal, co-sponsored by Carmalitha Gumbs and Khalid Kamau, comes against the backdrop of a complaint alleging that City Council Member Rosie Jackson attempted to improperly influence the outcome of a pending zoning case.

(South Fulton City Council Members Carmalitha Gumbs [pictured right] and Khalid Kamau [pictured left] want to revise their city's ethics laws. Photo Credit:
City of South Fulton
District 3 representative Helen Willis signaled her opposition to the measure in a recent email to constituents.

"A city without ethics leads to corruption," Willis' email reads. "I am requesting you to stand with me in opposition to Resolution 2018-027 which will usurp residents' ability to file ethics complaints against any city official or appointed board member for 90 days."

Council Member Gumbs pushed back against her colleague's description of the bill.

"The moratorium does not shield any elected official from action, nor does it circumvent the processes that are already proposed by the ordinance in its current draft," Gumbs said. "The proposed moratorium allows time to appoint a governing body, cement the process, and allow input and recommendations from our city attorney."

"Our goal is to ensure that the ethics board, when selected and assembled, has clear direction," Gumbs continued.

Voters approved creating the City of South Fulton in a 2016 referendum. The new city quickly adopted an ethics ordinance drafted by the Georgia Municipal Association. This action earned South Fulton the designation as a "Certified City of Ethics."

A spokesman with the Georgia Municipal Association says the proposed moratorium would not change South Fulton's City of Ethics designation.

"However, in order to retain the designation," Amy Henderson said, "the city must resubmit its ordinance and pass a resolution committing to several ethics principles every four years."

Henderson is the Communications Director for the Georgia Municipal Association.

"At that time, the ordinance is once again reviewed by a panel of attorneys and if it continues to meet the standards established to be a Certified City of Ethics, the city is once again designated a Certified City of Ethics," Henderson said.

The city's current ethics law, approved last November, established a three-member board to consider and review whether filed complaints are unjustified, frivolous or patently unfounded.

South Fulton City Clerk Mark Massey says only one ethics complaint has been filed with his office.

Gumbs' proposal states that recent ethics allegations have emphasized the City’s need to review and assess its ethics process for efficiency, participant’s rights, City Council appointments and to streamline the process for disposing of frivolous complaints.

"We do not yet have a governing body to hear complaints," Gumbs said.

Attorney Kenya Johnson was recently appointed to the ethics board, leaving two vacancies.

South Fulton City Council members will debate the 90-day ethics moratorium at its meeting on May 8.