Ethics complaint against Edwards dismissed

Mon, 12/03/2007 - 9:20am
By: Ben Nelms

At the end of the day Fulton County Commissioner Bill Edwards got what he wanted. A Nov. 29 hearing before the Georgia Ethics Commission resulted in the dismissal of a complaint over a flyer used in the Sept. 18 vote on the formation of the city of South Fulton. Commissioners did have concerns about Fulton County’s role in the matter. The complaint was filed by south Fulton resident Andre Walker.

In his statement to commissioners, ethics commission attorney Hemanth Digumarthi said Edwards had essentially used public resources to influence the outcome of the election. Edwards had been a proponent of keeping the south Fulton County area unincorporated. The Sept. 18 referendum saw more than 80 percent of voters rejecting the new city.

In his complaint, Walker cited three factors relating to the distribution of a flyer widely circulated prior to the election. The flyer listed three options for voters to consider on the vote for city status. It listed pros and cons for staying unincorporated, becoming a city or annexing into one of the neighboring existing cities. Walker maintained that the flyer carried Fulton County symbols and logos along with Edwards’ office phone number. He said the flyer was created to oppose the formation of the city and listed no campaign committee or principal officer. The funds required to produce and distribute the flyer had not been disclosed and no reports had been filed, Walker said.

“Edwards misused his office to affect the election,” Walker told commissioners.

Edwards’ attorney Randy Turner acknowledged that the election was extremely controversial, adding that Walker was a vocal opponent and critic of Edwards. Turner said the flyer was produced in response to citizens requesting more information about the Sept. 18 vote. The flyer was produced and paid for by Fulton County government and the responses outlined in it were informational only and did not advocate a voting position, Turner said.

“It was a way for Bill to state his opinion, which his constituents continually asked of him,” Turner said.

The vote by commissioners to dismiss was unanimous. The vote was accompanied by a statement from commissioner Chairman William Jordan, who said there may have been a violation that crossed the line from information to advocacy, but that violation rested with Fulton County, not with Edwards.

Commenting after the meeting, Walker said he is exploring the possibility of taking further steps to have all the questions answered.

Speaking later Thursday, Edwards he was happy with the outcome.

“I’m glad the Ethics Commission made the right decision. The facts were plain and they made their decision based on the facts,” Edwards said. “It’s time for us to put away the silly disputes and personal attacks and make south Fulton the best it can be.”

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