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Commission asked to adopt conduct code

Hall county departments come under scrutiny

POSTED: April 19, 2008 5:00 a.m.

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A constituent urged the Hall County Board of Commissioners to address practices of the Hall County clerk of court and a Hall County tax assessor Monday during the board’s work session.

Doug Aiken, president of the Hall County Taxpayers Association, addressed the Board of Commissioners regarding the Hall County Clerk of Court Dwight Wood’s legal pocketing of passport fees and recent allegations of financial improprieties levied against Hall County Board of Tax Assessor Chairman Emory Martin Jr.

"The public out there, they see you as the boss," Aiken said to the board of commissioners. "So if you’re quiet and don’t do anything about it, then if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem."

He asked commissioners to consider adopting a new code of conduct to address such improprieties that may be legal, yet unethical. Aiken then requested that commissioners create a permanent position within Hall County government to be filled by a non-elected official employed to review allegations within county departments.

"The county does not have a proper way to handle things of these type," Aiken said. "The sheriff has internal affairs just to handle problems within the sheriff’s department, and the county has nothing other than calling human resources."

Aiken, who has led the citizens’ advocacy group for years, said he has received numerous phone calls from both Hall County residents and employees asking to be directed to a department within the county that oversees allegations of unauthorized conduct.

Presently, District Attorney Lee Darragh is investigating the allegations that former county tax assessors office employees James Cantrell and Lyman Martin voiced publicly against Emory Martin. Cantrell and Lyman Martin accuse Emory Martin of padding time sheets that amount to $66,100 worth of what they said is unsubstantiated per diem pay.

"Three of them are up for re-election, and the public is looking for them to take action on behalf of the taxpayers," Aiken said.

Four of the five commissioners were present at the board meeting, and all agreed to ask the finance department to "look into the issue at the clerk’s office." Commissioners also asked Hall County Attorney Bill Blalock to review commissioners’ legal opportunities regarding a code of conduct in the tax assessors situation.

Oliver asked Blalock to have a report prepared for his and commissioner Billy Banks’ review on Wednesday.

"First of all, we’ve got to find out what falls in our realm of authority. Then we’ll be in a position to take some action on Thursday," Oliver said. "What can our commission do? Can we request (Emory Martin) reimburse the county? Can we mandate he reimburse the county?"

Oliver said the commission will consider requesting the tax assessor chairman to take a leave of absence until the district attorney delivers the findings of his investigation. He said further action will be taken at Thursday’s board meeting at 5 p.m. at the Hall County Courthouse Annex.



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