DeKalb County Voters: What to know about Ethics Referendum

DeKalb CEO says he will vote for a new law giving county functional ethics office

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — DeKalb County’s CEO says he will absolutely vote for a new law that would give the county a fully functioning ethics office for the first time in more than two years.

If approved, the law would diminish the authority of the top official in the office. The authority of the ethics officer has been a sticking point for critics, who argued that the person in that job could act as prosecutor, judge and jury.

A compromise passed by state legislators from DeKalb goes to voters next month, and the county’s top elected official says he’s all in.

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“It’s a step in the right direction. DeKalb needs an active ethics board that comports with state law,” CEO Michael Thurmond said. "This law does that, and I’m voting for it in November.

A year ago, DeKalb voters handily rejected another proposal that would have completely eliminated the position of ethics officer.

That job has been held for the past four years by Stacey Kalberman whom Thurmond has publicly criticized.

WHAT’S ON THE BALLOT:

When last year’s bill was offered to voters, key legislative supporter Stae Sen. Emanuel Jones confirmed that Kalberman’s perceived over-reaching was an issue.

Without calling any names, Thurmond told Belcher the proposal on the ballot next month doesn’t give so much power to one person.

“It’s an excellent balance of authority. And I think it creates a fairer process that everyone can be comfortable with and everyone can be proud of,” Thurmond said.

Mary Hinkel with DeKalb Citizens Advocacy, which opposed last year’s ethics law and supports the new proposal, said she’s very hopeful this law will pass. Like the CEO, she likes the new balance of authority in the law but hopes Kalberman will stay on.

“I think it’s very important. She is skilled. She’s talented. She has the expertise, the professional knowledge and experience. So we need her to stay there,” Hinkel said.

Kalberman remains as the ethics officer, but there is no board. If voters approve the new law, board members will have to be appointed, which would make the office fully functioning again, though with a somewhat different distribution of authority over ethics violators.

Kalberman did not provide a statement for our story.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger talks to GMA about the election process in Georgia.