It looks like last year’s feud within DeKalb County’s ranks will continue at the state Capitol this session. The following note from Eugene Walker, a member of the DeKalb County Board of Education, is making the rounds.
The ethics bill he refers to is H.B. 888, sponsored by state Rep. Kevin Levitas (D-Atlanta).
More often than not, when there is a political ax to grind, the unforeseen collateral damages harm a far greater number of people than the originally intended target.
Take state Rep. Mike Jacobs, for example. Angry with former CEO Vernon Jones and myself, this Republican lawmaker sought to legislatively exact political revenge. He convinced the Georgia General Assembly to pass a law that only affected the Development Authority of DeKalb County.
The Development Authority of DeKalb County used to bring in hundreds of millions in new investment and thousands of jobs every year. No more. Thanks to Mike Jacobs’ law, the Development Authority of DeKalb County can no longer do that. Companies seeking to relocate simply consider other metro areas. Fulton, Cobb and Gwinnett couldn’t be happier, as they capitalize on DeKalb’s petty politicking.
But the lesson has not been learned. Now comes state Rep. Kevin Levitas who, with disgruntled school board member Paul Womack, wants to create a special set of ethics laws that apply only to the DeKalb County school board and nowhere else.
Among other things, this would preclude a part-time school board member from serving on another board. I used to be the chair of the Development Authority of DeKalb County, but I have since resigned. The Atlanta Development Authority proudly seats an Atlanta School Board member in its ranks. Why would it be unethical for this arrangement to exist in DeKalb County , but not Atlanta ?
[Moreover], why would any ethics law not be good enough to be applied statewide? Furthermore, if any new ethics law is appropriate for School Boards in general, would it not be good enough for the entire Georgia General Assembly? Given its recent history, I might recommend that Mr. Levitas clean his own house first.
Please understand: I support guidelines that ensure honesty and integrity throughout the public sector. But Mr. Levitas’ current proposal is really not about that at all. His proposal, like Jacobs’ law before it, is just the latest salvo of political infighting. The real tragedy is if it is passed, and it places the DeKalb schools in a compromising situation relative to other school systems, it’s the children who will suffer – not the politicians.
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