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City scandals may convene Ethics Board

By   /   September 17, 2009  /   Comments

For the first time since then-Albany City Commissioner Henry Mathis was indicted, removed from office and ultimately convicted on public extortion charges, the city’s Ethics Board may be convened, a board member said Tuesday.

Albany resident Carol Tharin said Tuesday that she thinks some current city hall issues – including Mayor Willie Adams’ role in a taxpayer-financed development on East Oglethorpe Boulevard for Adams’ campaign manager – are worthy of the board’s review.

“There have been numerous ethical issues, particularly in the last six or eight months, that I think need to be brought to light before the Ethics Board,” said Tharin, who recently sought and received clarification from city officials regarding when and how the ethics board can be convened.

The Ethics Board has met only once since being created in 1990.

Tharin served on the board in 2005 when Mathis was sentenced to 2½ years in prison. Although the board deliberated, it took no action, apparently because the Mathis matter was judicially handled, Tharin said.

Another longtime Ethics Board member, Dunn Stapleton, said Tuesday that he thinks the board can only be convened by the Albany City Commission.

“It’s my understanding that we don’t have independent jurisdiction,” he said.

But the city’s ethics law says otherwise. Any citizen can file a complaint to the board and makes no note of the commission’s involvement; indeed, the board exists to ensure that the commission and its appointees operate ethically, according to the code.

“The Ethics Board serves for the benefit of all persons who have a bona fide question regarding a possible conflict between governmental duties and private, personal or financial interests,” the city law says.

Two Ethics Board members are appointed each by the City Commission and the Dougherty Circuit Bar Association, and one member is appointed by the judicial circuit’s chief judge. The Ethics Board’s other members are Patrick Flynn, Rita Brown and Tommy Duck.

The Dougherty County Taxpayers Association has recommended convening the board as a public corruption case and numerous city hall scandals, including various ethics violations by elected and appointed officials, have been revealed in news reports. In one matter, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is probing misappropriation of taxpayer funds by ousted downtown manager Don Buie and Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority member Lajuana Woods, who has been building a taxpayer-subsidized and publicly financed restaurant since 2007.

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