Decatur appointing new members to Ethics Committee
Decatur has filled two vacant positions on the city’s Ethics Committee.
Mayor Patti Garrett announced the members will be Charlie Bailey, a local attorney, and Mark Douglas, a professor of Christian ethics at Columbia Theological Seminary. They will join former mayor and current Ethics Committee member Elizabeth Wilson. They will replace Davison Philips, who passed away, and former Mayor Walt Drake, who is the father of City Commissioner Scott Drake.
Garrett recently told Decaturish, “There could be a potential conflict of interest with having Walt Drake serve.”
The question was in response to an article about city credit card use. An investigation by Decaturish.com prompted the city to revisit its practices surrounding credit cards, and also uncovered an apparent violation of the city’s ethics ordinance by Scott Drake, who used his city-issued card at a gas station where he has an ownership interest.
Drake defended his purchases saying, “I personally feel I followed the rules and guidelines for using the city credit card for the purchase of gas for a city-related trip. You have three gas stations in Decatur. I picked the one that actually supports the community through donations to the Decatur Education Foundation, Decatur Booster Club, Decatur Business Association, and just about any school or charity group that wants silent auction gift cards. Regardless of my affiliation with the Decatur Pure Station, I think I picked the right one to buy gas from.”
No complaints have been filed against Drake or anyone since the Ethics Committee was first appointed in 2001, so the committee has never met. Garrett has asked that the Committee hold a meeting for the purposes of having committee members meet each other.
Unlike other city boards, information about the city’s ethics ordinance and its Ethics Committee isn’t available on www.decaturga.com. City Manager Peggy Merriss said complaints must be made in writing to the city manager or the mayor. But that’s not what the ethics ordinance says. It simply says, “All complaints against City Commissioners shall be filed in writing with the ethics committee in such form as may be prescribed by the ethics committee.” The city’s website contains no information about how to contact the Ethics Committee or file a complaint.
The neighboring city of Avondale Estates has posted information about its Ethics Board and a form for filing a complaint on the city’s website. Avondale Estates City Manager Clai Brown said, “We post information regarding our ethics policies on our website, along with a great deal of other information, for the purpose of making it easily available to the public.”
Merriss said the city’s ethics ordinance, which was reaffirmed by a resolution at the April 4 City Commission meeting, will be uploaded to the city’s website.
Here is the city’s current ethics ordinance: