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April 1, 2013

City ethics board setup as deterrent

MILLEDGEVILLE —  

The City of Milledgeville officially became a City of Ethics within the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) last June. City council adopted an ethics policy March 27, 2012 to assist with the application. 

The code of ethics relates to travel, representation and business dealings of city employees, elected officials, appointees and volunteers with the purpose to encourage high ethical standards in official conduct, while also setting guidelines, seeking disclosure and providing terms of discipline for those who refuse to abide by the policy's terms. 

The policy outlines finance responsibilities and expressly forbids the use of city funds, facilities, personnel, equipment or supplies for personal use. The code ordinance also prohibits officials from drawing travel funds for sanctioned events and then failing to attend.

It established a Board of Ethics whose members, being city residents, serve two-year terms and are appointed by council and the mayor.

Mayor Richard Bentley said no particular event caused the ethics action last March though there were some issues with city credit card use that came to light around the same period.

“This was part of us becoming a certified City of Ethics within the GMA. We had sought that for some time,” Bentley said. “It wasn't a new development. The ethics board was part of that process.”

The three-member board of ethics was finalized May 23, 2012. Patricia Hicks joined Georgia College professor Clifton Wilkinson Jr. and Baldwin County part-time state court judge Alan Thrower on the three-member panel charged with investigating any ethics complaints filed against city officials and designees. Members serve without compensation.

Bentley said an unbiased group of non-elected officials is better suited to handle complaints.

“If we receive a complaint, then an impartial body would be asked to review those allegations. It removes any type of animosity from it being a council internal research, which I don't think would be appropriate anyway,” the mayor said.

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