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Hall County Board of Commissioners works on ethics plan, seeks independent review
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The Hall County Board of Commissioners is a step closer to settling on an ethics resolution.

At it’s Thursday meeting, Commissioner Bobby Banks shared a draft of an ethics resolution that he reviewed along with Commissioner Steve Gailey.

The two were given the task of combining the input of all five commissioners into one draft following volatile discussion on the subject over the last few months.

The ethics talks stemmed from involvement by Chairman Tom Oliver and Commissioner Billy Powell with City View LLC, a corporation that also includes the county’s bond attorney, Tread Syfan. The group is purchasing the Regions Bank operation center, which is involved in a lawsuit over easements. The property also is tied up with the Gainesville’s Midtown redevelopment project.

Since the commissioners’ personal business arrangement was revealed in January, there has been conversation about the ethical nature of going into for-profit business ventures with other politicians.

Among the changes Banks and Gailey suggested for a county ethics resolution was using an independent body to hear complaints against commissioners.

"Upon receipt of a signed sworn and written complaint setting forth the details of an alleged ethics violation against a member of the Hall County Board of Commissioners, the official ethics complaint will be referred to the grand jury, who will review it and handle it," Banks read.

Bell asked County Attorney Bill Blalock about the efficiency of having the grand jury hear ethics complaints.

"I have my doubts that you would get something from the grand jury very quickly because they are usually overloaded with what they have already," Blalock said. "... although it’s not exclusive, their jurisdiction is usually looking into criminal offenses and charges. They do have the authority to investigate public activities as well, although they have no special training in ethics one way or the other."

Blalock recommended a code of ethics that is currently being drafted by the Association County Commissioners of Georgia.

"It will provide for the appointment of a board of ethics or it can provide for ethics violations to be heard by a court" Blalock said.

Gailey said he would like to ensure that the people who hear ethics complaints have nothing to do with the commission.

"I don’t see how this board of commissioners or any board of commissioners can appoint an ethics board. It’s kind of like policing ourselves," Gailey said. "Maybe the grand jury can appoint a board."

Banks asked the other commissioners to submit any changes or questions by June 4.

The commissioners will hold public hearings on the ethics resolution June 8 and July 6.

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