Why does it take action from a private citizen to get the Giles County Ethics Committee to organize and act on one of the most severe and notorious ethics violations in recent times?
These are some important requirements of the Ethics Legislation adopted by the state in 2006
1 Local ethics policies must be adopted by the county legislative body in each county by June 30, 2007.
2 The policies are required to cover two things: (1) disclosure and/or limits on gifts and (2) disclosure of conflict of interests.
3 The policies cannot include personnel, employment, or operational regulations of local government offices.
4 The policies apply broadly to all officials and employees in all offices, agencies, and departments of the county and to the members, officers, and employees of all boards, commissions, authorities, corporations, or other instrumentalities of a county.
5 CTAS is required to draft and distribute a model policy to counties to provide guidance and direction. The county may choose to adopt the model or draft standards of its own.
6 The policies are led with the State Ethics Commission. If the county adopts the CTAS model policy, then, instead of ling the policy, the county simply notifies the State Ethics Commission in writing that the county adopted the CTAS model policy.
7 Enforcement remains as provided under current law.
8 A failure or refusal to adopt standards by a local governing body by the deadline subjects its members to ouster.
This section is what governs the events needed to be addressed.
Section 5. Ethics Complaints. A County Ethics Committee (the “Ethics Committee”) consisting of various members shall be appointed to one-year terms by the County Mayor with confirmation by the county legislative body, to be appointed each year at the same time as internal committees of the county legislative body. At least three members of the committee shall be members of the county legislative body; one member shall be a constitutional county officer or, should no constitutional county officer be willing to accept appointment, an additional member of the county legislative body; and the remaining member may be either a member of a board, committee, commission, authority, corporation, or other instrumentality governed by this policy, or an additional member of the county legislative body. The Ethics Committee shall convene as soon as practicable after their appointment and elect a chair and a secretary. The records of the Ethics Committee shall be maintained by the secretary and shall be filed in the office of the county clerk, where they shall be open to public inspection.
Questions and complaints regarding violations of this Code of Ethics or of any violation of state law governing ethical conduct should be directed to the chair of the Ethics Committee. Complaints shall be in writing and signed by the person making the complaint, and shall set forth in reasonable detail the facts upon which the complaint is based.
The County Ethics Committee shall investigate any credible complaint against an official or employee charging any violation of this Code of Ethics, or may undertake an investigation on its own initiative when it acquires information indicating a possible violation, and make recommendations for action to end or seek retribution for any activity that, in the Committee’s judgment, constitutes a violation of this Code of Ethics. If a member of the Committee is the subject of a complaint, such member shall recuse himself or herself from all proceedings involving such complaint.
The Committee may:
(1) refer the matter to the County Attorney for a legal opinion and/or recommendations for action;
(2) in the case of an official, refer the matter to the county legislative body for possible public censure if the county legislative body finds such action warranted;
(3) in the case of an employee, refer the matter to the official responsible for supervision of the employee for possible disciplinary action if the official finds discipline warranted;
(4) in a case involving possible violation of state statutes, refer the matter to the district attorney for possible ouster or criminal prosecution;
The interpretation that a reasonable person in the circumstances would apply shall be used in interpreting and enforcing this Code of Ethics. When a violation of this Code of Ethics also constitutes a violation of a personnel policy or a civil service policy, the violation shall be dealt with as a violation of the personnel or civil service provisions rather than as a violation of this Code of Ethics.
Now, this is the main element of the Ethics Resolution adopted by Giles County that pertains to this situation. If you would like to read the entire document it is posted, as outlined in this document, on each county bulletin board in the courthouse.
Ouster law—T.C.A. § 8-47-101 sets out conduct that is punishable by ouster from office, including misconduct in office and neglect of duty.
8-47-101. Officers subject to removal -- Grounds.
Every person holding any office of trust or profit, under and by virtue of any of the laws of the state, either state, county, or municipal, except such officers as are by the constitution removable only and exclusively by methods other than those provided in this chapter, who shall knowingly or willfully commit misconduct in office, or who shall knowingly or willfully neglect to perform any duty enjoined upon such officer by any of the laws of the state, or who shall in any public place be in a state of intoxication produced by strong drink voluntarily taken, or who shall engage in any form of illegal gambling, or who shall commit any act constituting a violation of any penal statute involving moral turpitude, shall forfeit such office and shall be ousted from such office in the manner hereinafter provided.
8-47-103. Investigation and institution of proceedings.
It is the duty of the attorney general and reporter, the district attorneys general, county attorneys, and city attorneys, within their respective jurisdictions, upon notice being received by them in writing that any officer herein mentioned has been guilty of any of the acts, omissions, or offenses set out in § 8-47-101, forthwith to investigate such complaint; and, if upon investigation such person finds that there is reasonable cause for such complaint, such person shall forthwith institute proceedings in the circuit, chancery, or criminal court of the proper county, to oust such officer from office.
8-47-116. Suspension pending hearing -- Filling of vacancy.
Upon petition or complaint being filed, praying for a writ of ouster against any of the officers herein named, and whether such action is brought by the attorney general and reporter, district attorney general, county attorney, city attorney, or by relator citizens and freeholders, the court, judge, or chancellor may, on application of the attorney general and reporter, the district attorney general for the state, the county attorney, city attorney, or relator citizens and freeholders bringing such action, suspend such officer or officers so accused from performing any of the duties of their office, pending a final hearing and determination of the matter; and, thereupon, the vacancy shall be filled as the law provides for the filling of vacancies in such office, and such person or persons so filling such vacancy shall carry on the duties of the office until such hearing shall be finally determined or until the successor of the officer so suspended shall be elected or appointed as provided by law, and shall have qualified.
8-47-117. Hearing on suspension.
No person shall be suspended under this chapter until at least five (5) days' notice of the application for the order of suspension shall be served upon such person, which notice shall set forth the time and place of the hearing of the application, and the officer shall have the right to appear and make any defense that the officer may have, and shall be entitled to a full hearing upon the charges contained in the complaint and upon the application for the order of suspension; and no order of suspension shall be made, except upon finding of good cause therefor.
8-47-101. Officers subject to removal -- Grounds.
Every person holding any office of trust or profit, under and by virtue of any of the laws of the state, either state, county, or municipal, except such officers as are by the constitution removable only and exclusively by methods other than those provided in this chapter, who shall knowingly or willfully commit misconduct in office, or who shall knowingly or willfully neglect to perform any duty enjoined upon such officer by any of the laws of the state, or who shall in any public place be in a state of intoxication produced by strong drink voluntarily taken, or who shall engage in any form of illegal gambling, or who shall commit any act constituting a violation of any penal statute involving moral turpitude, shall forfeit such office and shall be ousted from such office in the manner hereinafter provided
This is the letter of complaint sent to the Ethics Committee Members, the County Executive and the Pulaski Citizen newspaper. The name and address of the writer has been withheld.
8 September 2016
County Executive Giles County
Members of Giles County Ethics Committee
Dear Mrs. Vanzant:
Please accept this letter as a formal complaint against Commissioner Tommy A. Campbell based on the charges recently brought against him by the TBI and District Attorney's office and which are currently pending in court.
Since a Motion was filed to continue the original arraignment date from yesterday until October 17th, this matter could continue for several months. Therefore, respectfully request the Ethics Committee of Giles County meet to possibly discuss suspending Mr. Campbell from all official duties as a County Commissioner until a decision is handed down through the courts, and that an interim Commissioner be appointed by the Legislative Body.
District 7 and the citizens of Giles County do not need to be under- represented until the charges against Mr. Campbell are resolved. Until some action by the Legislative Body is taken a continued pall hangs over our County Government and it is time to move on.
Since Mr. Campbell is a member of the Ethics Committee and by law is recused from discussion, I am not including him in distribution of this letter.