HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee received formal recognition as a “City of Ethics” at the annual Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) convention held in Savannah, Georgia. Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales and Hiawassee City Clerk Bonnie Kendrick accepted a plaque acknowledging the ordinance on Monday, June 25, 2018.
The mandate states that a Board of Ethics, consisting of three members whom reside within the city limits for at least one year prior to appointment, will serve terms of two years. The appointment of said individuals are cited as chosen by the mayor, the city council, and a third by a combination of the governing bodies. The ordinance goes on to list additional qualifications necessary to serve on the board.
Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales stated that she was unaware of the appointees on the Board of Ethics when an inquiry was made by FetchYourNews (FYN) on the afternoon of Thursday, July 5, saying she will “check notes” in order to provide the information. FYN previously attempted to learn the identities of the board members from city clerks on separate occasions. The clerks relayed that they had no knowledge of an existing board.
The motion to adopt the City of Ethics resolution was unanimously approved on Feb. 6, 2018, during Hiawassee City Council’s monthly session. The second reading was conducted the previous year, prior to the election of half of the sitting council. Mayor Ordiales, along with Council members Anne Mitchell and Kris Berrong, held seats at the time that the ordinance was initially introduced.
The mandate states that elected and appointed city officials must abide by high ethical standards of conduct, with a requirement of disclosure of private financial or other conflicting interest matters. The ordinance serves as a basis for disciplinary action for violations.
Listed among expectations are selfless servitude toward others, responsible use of public resources, fair treatment of all persons, proper application of power for the well-being of constituents, and maintenance of an environment which encourages honesty, openness, and integrity.
According to the decree, complaints of violations must be signed under oath and filed with Hiawassee City Clerk Bonnie Kendrick at City Hall. Copies of the complaint will then be submitted to Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, Hiawassee City Council, and the Board of Ethics within seven days. In addition, a copy will be delivered to the alleged offender. The Board of Ethics is authorized to investigate the complaint, gather evidence, and hold hearings on the matter. The Board of Ethics will determine whether the complaint is justified or unsubstantiated. Should the process proceed, Hiawassee City Council, along with the ethics board, will conduct a hearing within 60 days of the validated complaint.
Public reprimand or a request for resignation may be issued. An appeal may be filed for judicial review with Towns County Superior Court within 30 days after the ruling by the Board of Ethics.
FYN will continue to seek clarity as to whom was appointed to serve on Hiawassee’s Ethics Board.
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