Ethics Board Unanimously Dismisses Complaint against Councilman Baker

The City of South Fulton’s Board of Ethics has voted to dismiss an ethics case brought against Councilman Mark Baker.

The complaint, #2019-07, was filed by South Fulton resident James Brennan. The basis of the complaint was that Councilman Baker’s role as the chairman of the South Fulton Development Authority (SFDA) is a conflict of interest.

The complaint went on to assert that Councilman Baker was in violation of Sec. 1-5004 of the city’s ethics ordinance, specifically the clause that states that no city official shall accept employment or receive compensation if it could reasonably be expected to impair the official’s judgment or performance of civic duties.

Councilman Baker is not employed by the SFDA, nor does he receive compensation in the role. The vote by the ethics board to dismiss the matter was unanimous and with prejudice.

Board member Kenneth F. Joe acknowledged that while Councilman Baker’s role as chairman of the SFDA might make some uncomfortable, it’s not a violation of the city’s ethics ordinance.

Former SFDA director Shelly Lamar had also expressed her discomfort with Councilman Baker serving in the role at the authority’s first meeting in May 2019, and reiterated it in her formal resignation letter.

The City of South Fulton’s charter outlines how boards, commissions and authorities should be created. It also notes that sections can be overridden by law.

Section 4.11 of the charter states that “except as otherwise provided by Charter or by law, no member of any board, commission, or authority shall hold any elective office in the city.”

By contrast, state law does not specify that the chairman of a development authority cannot also be an elected official. O.C.G.A. 36-62-5 outlines the duties, compensation, powers and conflicts of interest of development authority officers. Its primary restriction related to elected officials is that only one member of the governing authority may serve on the development authority.

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