by Hatcher Hurd / Appen Newspapers
July 02, 2010
NORTH FULTON – Fulton County Commissioner Lynne Riley responded to an ethics violation by six south Fulton state representatives by first challenging the legitimacy of the Fulton County Board of Ethics.
The politicians allege Riley violated her Fulton Board of Commissioners oath when she advocated a separate Milton County and served on the legislative advisory committee created by state Rep. Jan Jones. Thus Riley created a conflict in serving the best interests of Fulton County as a commissioner.
Riley maintains she is only representing the wishes of her constituents and exercising her right to free speech.
"I've been very clear in my right to advocate for the rights of my constituents," said the North Fulton commissioner from Johns Creek.
But as one of her attorneys, John Proctor, researched the ethics charge, he discovered that the Board of Commissioners delegates the selection to the Ethics Board to various civic groups, the Atlanta Bar Association, the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, the Gate City Bar Association, the Atlanta Business League and the Atlanta Airport Chamber of Commerce.
The other two positions on the seven-member board are chosen by the county Personnel Board from its membership and the appointment of one serving county commissioner, in this case Bill Edwards.
However, Proctor discovered this was not allowed under the Georgia Constitution. The Governing body must appoint all seats on an ethics board.
"And there is case law on point [Rogers v. Medical Association of Georgia (1979)]," said state Rep. Wendell Willard, one of six attorneys also representing Riley pro bono in the case.
"So everything done by this board is illegal and unconstitutional," he said.
In addition, Willard said these six south Fulton legislators charge Riley of violating her oath of office, but they never spell out exactly what it is she has done to provoke the charge.
"Her conduct, to serve on a committee – how does that violate ethics? To say one cannot articulate one's beliefs would have a chilling effect on free speech," he said.
If convicted of an ethics charge, the highest penalty is a $1,000 fine.