McDONOUGH — The Henry County delegation hosted a town hall meeting last week to inform citizens and answer questions about House Bill 22.
The bill, if signed into law, will restore powers to the Board of Commissioners chair and create a Henry County Ethics Board.
HB22 states the BOC chair will serve as the chief executive and elective officer of the county; serve as a full voting member of the board; serve as presiding officer over meetings and set the agenda; appoint and have authority to fire, discipline or suspend the county manager, county clerk and county attorney with the approval of the BOC.
The agenda can be amended after it is set by the chair with the approval of four commissioners
In 2016, House Bill 554 delegated much of the chair’s duties to the board as a whole.
Rep. Demetrius Douglas said the HB22 change is “very much needed,” adding that the chair is elected county-wide and that the chair is responsible for what is going on in the county.
“Shouldn’t she have authority to make decisions for the county?” he asked.
Delegation members agreed.
Rep. Clint Crowe said he believes the changes to the chair position are what’s best for citizens.
“It gets us back to the intention of the position,” he said. “Allow the chair to run the board and the government the way that position was originally intended.”
Rep. Sandra Scott said she felt the chair should “have the authority to do her job,” adding the chair “is the person who is in charge of the county.”
Rep. El-Mahdi Holly said the changes will bring cohesion to the county.
“We have a chair who can handle the concerns of the county,” he said.
The bill also establishes an ethics board comprised of seven Henry County citizens with professional knowledge or expertise in ethics, finance, governance or the law. Five of the members will be appointed by the grand jury of Henry County and two by the tax commissioner. Two alternate members will also be appointed by the clerk of the Superior Court of Henry County should a board member be absent or have a conflict of interest.
Members would serve three-year terms to start on Jan. 1, 2022. The newly formed board will be tasked with electing an ethics officer and administrator. Both positions will be funded by Henry County.
Board member duties will include conducting investigations into alleged violations, holding hearings and issuing decisions.
Complaints may be filed by the ethics officer, any Henry resident or a group of Henry residents against a Henry County official or employee.
Based on findings, the board has the power to censure, issue a fine of not more than $1,000 and issue a public reprimand. The ethics board can also elevate the complaint to the Henry County Solicitor’s office, if necessary.
Sen. Emmanuel Jones, the bill’s author, said the creation of an ethics board is “important to ensure there’s integrity in government and that citizens have a way to address their concerns by an independent organization.”
Holly said the proposed ethics board is not unlike what members of the House and Senate are held to when they enter the Capitol.
“There’s a board that watches us and monitors our behavior and our actions,” he said. “We have to remain accountable.”
To watch the town hall meeting, visit Facebook.com and search for Henry County Government.