“We have 18 total complaints over the last couple months and before that, we had four complaints in two years,” he said. “We take the complaints that are submitted very seriously and once we can establish the truth of the allegations in each complaint, we will take action.”
Ernst said action could entail a clearing of charges, reprimanding, suspensions or even terminations.
An increase in funding for the ethics board will be part of what is needed to “restore transparency,” Ernst said.
“As the chairman of the ethics board, I have made it the board’s mission to help restore confidence in local government in an independent and transparent manner,” he said. “I’ve asked the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners to immediately approve the increase in funding for the ethics board put forward by the interim CEO’s office.”
Although Ernst did not say how much funding would be going towards the investigations, he did say the funds will go towards the resources needed to take action.
“It takes resources to hire investigators, gather the necessary information, take action and potentially remove DeKalb County employees,” he said. “As one would expect with the great increase in cases, we’re stretched a bit thin at the moment, but we believe that the additional funding from the board of commissioners will get us through this year when they release the funds.”
New procedures to handle complaints are already being explored.
“We recently received ethics training from experts at Emory University and we intend to effectively handle complaints by using this training,” Ernst said.
“We also have an outstanding new attorney helping to make sure that we are following everything to the letter of the law. We will resolve these complaints quickly, but fairly.”
An ethics website and hotline, which will be monitored regularly, will be available to the public at www.co.dekalb.ethicspoint.com and (855) 224-8216.