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Ethics board: DeKalb commissioner did violate code of ethics | News

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Ethics board: DeKalb commissioner did violate code of ethics
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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. -- The DeKalb County Ethics Board ruled Thursday night that County Commissioner Stan Watson violated the county's code of ethics.

The ethics board then considered whether to remove Watson from office or suspend him, but decided to reprimand him, instead.

Watson has admitted that a company called APD Solutions was paying him $500 a month at the very time the company was seeking a county contract.

Watson did, in fact, vote to award the company a one-million dollar county contract, and several months later, while he was still on the company payroll, voted again to award the company an additional $500,000.

Members of the ethics board called that a serious conflict of interest.

Watson was not present at the ethics board hearing Thursday night.

He sent his attorney, Lynn Whatley, to the hearing.  Whatley said that Watson was not aware at the time of the votes that he was voting to benefit ABC Solutions.

Whatley said that even if Watson had announced he had a conflict of interest and had abstained from voting, the company would have still gotten the contract because the rest of the commissioners voted for it, as well.

Thursday night, after the ethics board ruled that Watson was guilty of violating three provisions of the code of ethics, board members discussed whether to remove Watson from office or suspend him.  

They decided that a reprimand would be punishment enough.

"It was evident that he had violated the code, based on the wording that was presented to us, and there's no doubt in my mind about that," ethics board member Nikki Forman told 11Alive News after the vote.  "However, I will go on record to say I don't believe that he should be removed from office."

Chairman John Ernst, who supported suspending Watson, said the board's decision to reprimand Watson is more than just a slap on the wrist.

"The citizens will know that what he did is wrong, and Mr. Watson will also know that what he did was wrong," Ernst said.  "And it's something that probably can be used against him in a political campaign, that, in fact, he violated the code of ethics."

As soon as the board reprimanded Watson, it heard more complaints of wrong doing against others in county government. Decisions on those are expected in the weeks ahead.

All the while, an independent investigator who recently described DeKalb County government as "rotten to the core" continues to look into how DeKalb is run, and may release more information about that investigation later this month.


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