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County to vote on ethics, south Fulton economic development
by Noreen Cochran
January 07, 2014 03:03 PM | 1237 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Wednesday's board of commissioners’ meeting agenda will include a proposed change to the Fulton County code of ethics, sponsored by Commissioner William “Bill” Edwards, eliminating the one-year wait time between leaving county employment and working for one of its consultants.

The amendment stems from the 2011 selection of EAN International to outsource economic development efforts in south Fulton and the subsequent hiring of its principal, former DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce CEO Edward A. Nelson Jr., and consultant Arthur Brown as county temporary employees.

County Manager Dwight Ferrell said at the Dec. 18 meeting with Obamacare costs requiring temp workers’ hours to be reduced from 40 to 29 per week, under which the temps do not receive county medical benefits, Robinson and Brown needed to become contractors to maintain their 40-hour-week schedules – at rates of $45 and $35 per hour, respectively.

But going from employee, even a temporary one, to contractor is against Section 2-77 of the current code.

The amendment, if approved, will give a new provision to guide the ethics board, County Attorney David Ware said Dec. 18, one in which outsourcing plays a role.

“It is not the intent of the code of ethics to infringe on or limit business opportunities, job creation or to disrupt business relationships and development where there are no apparent ethical violations,” the proposed resolution reads. “Fulton County is investigating the feasibility of outsourcing various functions, services and duties to private persons or entities, to address the projected revenue shortfalls for 2014.”

The resolution further states the board “finds it necessary to clarify that the restrictions placed on the employment of former Fulton County employees do not apply when services, duties and/or functions are outsourced or privatized.”

The matter has been waiting since October for resolution.

At stake is not only the continued efforts toward revitalizing an area the county’s economic development website calls “a veritable gold mine of opportunities,” but the future of the other 600 county temps.

Vice Chair Emma Darnell may vote against the amendment.

On Dec. 18, when Robinson’s and Brown’s contracts and the amendment were bumped to today’s agenda, she said the code of ethics change was “unfair” because it favored two individuals.

“We can’t adopt policies for two employees,” she said. “It contemplates that for 600 temporary employees, we’re going to outsource their functions. That’s what we can do under this rule. It encourages outsourcing in ways that are not always beneficial to this government.

“In order for this to be non-discriminatory and apply to every temporary employee, we need to have an outsourcing approach for every one of them, so that every temporary employee, including the ones we have at our multi-purpose centers, can feel confident tonight they’re going to outsource water, lifeguards, so I can keep 40 hours. It’s hard for the government to make policies for one or two people. It’s also wrong, unlawful and unfair.”

Commissioner Robb Pitts may also vote against the amendment. “I don’t think this has been well-thought out,” he said Dec. 18. “I can see this being used as a tool that will not result in any cost savings for us at all. It’s opening up a can of worms we don’t need to open up at this time.”

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