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DeKalb Co. Board of Ethics chair resigns | News

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DeKalb Co. Board of Ethics chair resigns
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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. -- Less than 24-hours after the DeKalb County Board of Ethics met to handle a number of cases, including allegations against a county commissioner, its chairman has announced his resignation.

John Ernst announced his resignation in an e-mail to Interim CEO Lee May on Thursday which has provided to 11Alive.

In the resignation letter, Ernst pointed out the accomplishments of the board since he took the position two years ago including a better budget, more members and fewer complaints languishing in a backlog.

He  also said he will encourage voters to approve a referendum for further ethics reform in Novembers.

"We must actively promote transparency in the county and do a better job of holding our elected officials accountable," he said. "We must not just give lip service to the essential job of solving this crisis of confidence in DeKalb.

While the letter doesn't make direct reference to the crisis in question, it comes just weeks after an initial report from two investigators hired to root out corruption.

At least one of those investigators called DeKalb County "rotten to the core" - a claim that some higher-ups in the county dispute.

But Ernst's resignation also comes less than 24-hours after the board's most recent meeting. In it, they voted that DeKalb County Commissioner Stan Watson violated the county's ethics policy when he voted in favor of a business contract that involved a company from which he was receiving a substantial sum of money.

 

His attorney said Watson denied that he was aware of the connection between the company paying him $500 a month and the one involved in contracts that totaled more than $1 million.

The board found that he did violate the policy but, rather than suspend him or remove him from office, reprimanded him for his actions.

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."

While ethics issues are a major topic of discussion in DeKalb County right now, they aren't a new problem for the county.

Earlier in the week, a South Georgia man was also arraigned on charges that he helped former DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer and her husband bilk over $80,000 from county coffers between 2009 and 2011.

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