The Canton City Council approved an overhaul of its ethics ordinance Thursday, which city officials have said is designed to raise ethical standards for elected leaders.

The new ethics ordinance will include a new file system for ethics complaints and a new ethics board. Mayor Bill Grant said earlier this month that the new ordinance is modeled after many of Georgia’s newer cities, or ones that have made recent updates to strengthen their ethics approach.

The new ordinance will allow only city residents to file ethics complaints with the city clerk’s office; under the previous rules anyone will be able file a complaint, according to the mayor. Once filed, the complaints will have to be considered and acted upon by the ethics board within 60 days.

The new ordinance includes a new ethics board, which will consist of five residents, randomly drawn in public at a city council meeting from a pool of 14 candidates. Those 14 candidates will be two appointees by each of the six council members and mayor.

The board will be created upon receipt of a complaint that contains the proper affidavit and timely forwarding of that complaint to the city clerk. The city clerk, at the next regularly scheduled public meeting, or at a specially called public meeting, will draw names randomly from the listing of qualified citizens until five members of the board have been appointed. The board will elect one of its members to serve as chair. The selected members of the board will serve until the complaint is resolved, at which time the selected members will no longer be in the pool of 14. The mayor and city council members who originally designated the departing members shall designate their replacements.

Previously, council members made up two-thirds of the investigating committee tasked with weighing complaints and deciding if they move forward to the ethics board. The three-member ethics board has one mayoral appointee, one council appointee, and one local attorney appointed by these two members.

Grant has said the previous ordinance was stacked in the mayor’s favor with the initial appointment of two council members to the investigating committee, one of three members of the ethics board, and no established standard procedures for each hearing. The new ordinance establishes a list of procedures to create the board, details how the board will conduct business, and lists board member requirements such as age, 21 or older, and city residence.

To view the full ordinance, see the city council’s July 15 agenda packet at canton.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx.

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Ethan is a reporter covering the cities of Holly Springs & Canton. He also covers city governments and lifestyle. He is a graduate of Kennesaw State University.

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