Bibb County Commission adopts code of ethics

The Bibb County Commission adopted a code of ethics Tuesday, about three months after rejecting a similar proposal by former Commission Chairman Charlie Bishop.

The ordinance, approved unanimously, establishes ethical standards for county employees and officials, including commissioners. Among other things, it prohibits conflicts of interest that could interfere with employees’ and officials’ duties and the use of their offices for private gain.

“I think it’s just good for us as a commission to get this issue behind us,” said Commissioner Lonzy Edwards.

The ethics code will be especially helpful to have when the commission makes upcoming board and committee appointments, he said.

Bishop tried to push the commission to adopt a code of ethics in November before he left office. Commissioners at the time rejected his proposals, accusing Bishop of moving too fast and working independently of the commission.

In December, the commission voted to have County Attorney Virgil Adams draw up an ethics code that included advice from commissioners. Edwards, who gave Adams and other commissioners a copy of the Cobb County code of ethics in January, said he had ample input in crafting the law.

“I don’t think there was ever any opposition to having a code of ethics,” Edwards said, but rather there was opposition to the manner in which it was proposed.

The adopted code of ethics requires employees and officials to disclose any potential conflict of interest. The commission then will determine whether that interest is harmful to the county and whether the individual should participate in the issue at hand.

Penalties for violating the ethics law range from a written warning or reprimand to termination of employment or removal from office.

Commissioner Bert Bivins has said since the issue first surfaced that the commission already must abide by the state’s code of ethics. He reiterated Tuesday night that he would have preferred to see the commission adopt the state code, but there was “no reason to oppose this one.”

Commission Chairman Sam Hart said he’s glad the commission decided to adopt a code of ethics.

“Keeping in line with what the state requires already, it’s something we ought to be doing,” he said.

To contact writer Jennifer Burk, call 744-4345.