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Cities discuss local impact of new ethics bill

POSTED: April 23, 2013 12:05 a.m.

Joint Municipal Association members discussed the ethics reform bill that the Georgia General Assembly passed this year at their meeting Monday evening in Gainesville.

Part of the legislation, which was sent to Gov. Nathan Deal earlier this month, impacts city and county public officials and their staffs by returning the filing of the campaign contribution reports and personal financial disclosure reports to the local level.

Deal has not signed the bill yet. It would take effect in January.

Under the reform, candidates and public officers for city or county office will file campaign reports with the clerk, instead of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, formerly known as the State Ethics Commission. The clerk or elections superintendent must transmit the reports to the commission within 30 days of the due date of the report.

The clerks must fine the official $125 for each report filed late. The fine rises to $250 and then goes up to $1,000.

“I know there’s no clerks who really want to fine their bosses,” said Oakwood City Manager Stan Brown.

Local public officers, which includes elected officials, don’t have to file a campaign disclosure form if they sign a written notice at qualifying they don’t intend to accept or spend more than $2,500 for a campaign.

All candidates and public officers have to file a personal financial disclosure report within 10 days of qualifying in an election year and by June 30 in a nonelection year.

Public officials currently file electronically directly to the commission, which several members said was confusing.

Gillsville Mayor Larry Poole asked if there’s an appeal process. Two of his City Council members have been fined $125 under the current law and are ready to quit because they’re paid $25 a month, Poole said. Nobody collects campaign funds in that area.

Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan said the new legislation hurts small cities because they can’t afford to employ clerks.

In other business, the group heard two presentations, including one on the Hall County Environmental Management System by Rick Foote, Hall County recycling coordinator, and Brown. City managers Kip Padgett, Gainesville; Bill Andrew, Flowery Branch, and Brown gave work group status reports.


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