Summary of Advisory Opinion 2014-2

Summary of Advisory Opinion 2014-2; Request of the Chief of Staff of the Board of Commissioners for DeKalb County Morris E. Williams for Advisory Opinion > June 24, 2014

Facts

The DeKalb County Board of Ethics met on June 24, 2014 to consider the request of Chief of Staff of the Board of Commissioners for DeKalb County Morris E. Williams for an advisory opinion.

Mr. Williams indicates that the Board of Commissioners has regularly scheduled meetings each Tuesday and project debriefing meetings from time to time. Government contractors and vendors want access to the Commissioners before or after these hearings. Mr. Williams states that the Commissioners, staff, contractors, and vendors will not be able to eat breakfast or lunch if they meet either before or after the regular Commission meetings. Therefore, according to Mr. Williams, a contractor or vendor will voluntarily (absent solicitation by the Commission) cater a meal before or after the regular Commission meeting or at project debriefing meetings out of respect for the Board of Commissioners’ obligation to hold its meetings in accordance with the Georgia Open Meetings Act.

Issue

Chief of Staff Williams requests an Advisory Opinion as to whether meals provided to members of the Board of Commissioners by vendors or contractors creates a distinct appearance of impropriety causing the impression of conduct which violates or will violate the Code of Ethics.

Conclusion

The Board of Ethics determined that the providing of meals to members of the Board of Commissioners by vendors or contractors (even if unsolicited) creates a distinct appearance of impropriety causing the impression of conduct which violates or will violate the Code of Ethics. In other words, the conduct gives a reasonable basis for the impression that a vendor or contractor can improperly influence the Board of Commissioners and unduly enjoy its favor in the performance of its official acts or actions. Therefore the Board of Ethics directs the Board of Commissioners to refrain from accepting meals provided by vendors, contractors, and potential vendors or contractors before, after, or in conjunction with any meeting of the Board of Commissioners to avoid violating the applicable Code of Ethics provisions.

Discussion

The DeKalb County Code of Ethics prohibits any member of the governing authority from conduct which gives reasonable basis for the impression that any person can improperly influence him or unduly enjoy his favor in the performance of his official acts or actions. §22A(c)(1). The Code, moreover, prohibits any member of the governing authority from directly requesting, receiving, or agreeing to receive a gift for himself or another person if it tends to influence him in the discharge of his official duties or if he is now or may be in the near future involved in any official act or action directly affecting the donor or lender. §22A(c)(2)(A)(i)(ii).