Summary of Advisory Opinion 5

Summary of Advisory Opinion 5; Request of DeKalb County Commission Member Burrell Ellis, Jr. for Advisory Opinion > August 27, 2001

Facts

W. Burrell Ellis, Jr. is a DeKalb County Commissioner for District 4. Commissioner Ellis has an impending marriage with Phillipa V. Tibbs, an attorney who serves part-time as a Merit System Hearing Officer for DeKalb County. Ms. Tibbs’ appointment as a Merit System Hearing Officer was made prior to Commissioner Ellis’ term as a member of the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners. Her appointment as a Merit System Hearing Officer did not require confirmation by the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners, and she is not subject to confirmation by the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners in the future.

Issue

Commissioner Ellis requests an Advisory opinion as to whether his impending marriage with Phillipa V. Tibbs would cause an ethical violation to occur as a result of his and her respective positions with DeKalb County.

Conclusion

The Board of Ethics concluded that a conflict of interest will not be created by the marriage of Commissioner W. Burrell Ellis, Jr. to Phillipa V. Tibbs, as a result of her duties as a part-time hearing officer for the DeKalb County Merit System. The Board concluded further that Commissioner Ellis should disqualify himself from any matter before the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners in which Commissioner Ellis’ wife participated as a Merit System Hearing Officer for DeKalb County.

Discussion

The DeKalb County Code of Ethics requires any member of the governing authority to disqualify himself from participating in any official act or action of DeKalb Country directly affecting a business or activity in which he or she has any interest, whether or not remote. A member of the governing authority shall be deemed to have an interest in transactions involving any person in the member’s family. 22A(e)(1); (b)(7)(a).

The DeKalb County Ethics Code, moreover, provides that no official or employee of DeKalb County shall, by his or her conduct give reasonable basis for the impression that any person can improperly influence him or her or unduly enjoy his or her favor in the performance of his or her official acts or actions or that he or she is affected unduly by the rank or position of or kinship or association with any person. 22A(c)(1).