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Cities Of Ethics

At-a-Glance

GMA's Cities of Ethics program is not in any way approval of past or present conduct by the city or any city official. Instead, it is an attempt to raise awareness about ethics issues at the local level and provide a local forum for the airing and resolution of legitimate concerns. The use of a local ethics ordinance allows citizens to raise their concerns and participate in the ethics investigation process at the local level, where the voice and influence of the individual citizen is strongest.
 

Submission Deadlines

Mayors' Day Conference (held January of each year)
Cities that would like their ordinance reviewed in time to be recognized during GMA's annual Mayors' Day Conference must submit all materials by November 30 of each year.

Annual Convention (held in June of each year) Cities that would like their ordinance reviewed in time to be recognized during GMA's Annual Convention must submit all materials by April 30 of each year.

 

Becoming a City of Ethics

To earn a "Certified City of Ethics" designation, a city must take two actions.

Adopt a resolution establishing the five ethics principles for the conduct of your city's officials.

These principles are designed to guide the elected officials as individuals and as a governing body. These principles are:
 
  • Serve others, not ourselves
  • Use resources with efficiency and economy
  • Treat all people fairly
  • Use the power of our position for the well being of our constituents
  • Create an environment of honesty, openness and integrity
The adopted resolution must include or at least reference the definitions of these principles. A sample resolution is available from GMA. A majority of the city’s elected governing body must sign the resolution.

Adopt an ethics ordinance that meets minimum standards approved by the GMA Board.

The ordinance must contain definitions, an enumeration of permissible and impermissible activities by elected officials, due process procedures for elected officials charged with a violation of the ordinance and punishment provisions for those elected officials found in violation of the ordinance.

City officials should consult GMA's Sample Ethics Ordinance (see link at right) when considering provisions to include in a comprehensive codes of ethics. This document is the most recent and most accurately reflects the types of provisions essential to a local ethics ordinance. For general guidance in facing ethical dilemmas on a day-to-day basis and on state ethics laws, see GMA's publication "Ethics in Government: Charting the Right Course."

Following their adoption, the resolution and ordinance should be mailed to:
 
Georgia Municipal Association
Attention: Legal Department
201 Pryor Street, SW
Atlanta, Georgia 30303

The resolution and ordinance will be forwarded to the GMA Ethics Certification Committee, which is comprised of the Executive Committee of the GMA City Attorneys Section, for their review. If this panel of attorneys determines that both items meet the established requirements, the city will be designated as a "Certified City of Ethics."
 

Recognition for Certified Cities of Ethics

Each city designated as a Certified City of Ethics will receive a plaque and a logo which can be incorporated into city stationery, road signs and other materials at the city's discretion. In addition, GMA will send press releases to the local media notifying them that the city has earned this designation.
How did the Cities of Ethics Program get its start?
GMA appointed an Ethics Task Force in 1998 to address concerns over a trend toward less confidence in public officials. The Ethics Task Force included municipal elected officials, community and industry leaders, and academics. The result of their work was the publication of a "Model Code of Ethics for Georgia City Officials" in September 1999 and the implementation of GMA's Certified Cities of Ethics program. Most recently, in February 2005, GMA completed an updated handbook that is a compilation of the "Model Code of Ethics" and a prior GMA publication, "Ethics in Government: Finding the Right Course," which was written in 1993. This publication is titled, "Ethics in Government: Charting the Right Course," and can be found on the GMA website.

In 2008 a new Ethics Task Force was appointed to evaluate the existing Certified Cities of Ethics program and make recommendations on ways to improve the program and ensure its effectiveness. In January 2009 the GMA Board adopted the recommendations of the Ethics Task Force and instituted a requirement of re-certification every four years and approved a new sample ordinance.

What is the purpose of the Cities of Ethics Program?
Certification under this program is a way to recognize cities that have adopted principles and procedures that offer guidance on ethical issues, along with a mechanism to resolve complaints at the local level. The program is not in any way an attempt to sanction past or present conduct by the city or any city official. Rather, it is an attempt to raise awareness about ethics issues at the local level and provide a local forum for the airing and resolution of legitimate concerns. The use of a local ethics ordinance allows citizens to raise their concerns and participate in the ethics investigation process at the local level, where the voice and influence of the individual citizen is strongest.

What is the process for becoming a City of Ethics?
Two steps are required prior to becoming a certified City of Ethics. First, the city and every member of its governing authority must adopt a resolution acknowledging and subscribing to five ethics principles to govern the conduct of elected officials. The ethics principals to be included in the resolution are:
  • Serve others, not ourselves 
  • Use resources with efficiency and economy 
  • Treat all people fairly 
  • Use the power of our position for the well being of our constituents 
  • Create an environment of honesty, openness and integrity
The adopted resolution must include or at least reference the definitions of these principles. A sample resolution is available on the GMA website. A majority of the city’s elected governing body must sign the resolution.
 
Second, cities must also adopt an ethics ordinance that meets minimum standards approved by the GMA Board. The ordinance must contain definitions, an enumeration of permissible and impermissible activities by elected officials, due process procedures for elected officials charged with a violation of the ordinance and punishment provisions for elected officials who have been found in violation of the ordinance.

Who decides whether a city has qualified to become a Certified City of Ethics?
GMA encourages all cities to apply for the City of Ethics program, but city officials should be aware that approval is not automatic. Ordinances and resolutions submitted by each city are reviewed by the GMA Ethics Certification Committee, which is comprised of the Executive Committee of the GMA City Attorneys' Section. This committee compares materials submitted by cities with the recommendations of the GMA Board. If this panel of attorneys determines that both the ordinance and resolution submitted by each city meet the established requirements, then the city's application for certification as a City of Ethics will be approved.

Once a city adopts an ethics ordinance and qualifies as a City of Ethics, does GMA enforce the ordinance?
No, GMA does not act as an enforcement or regulating agency. Ultimately, it is the local electorate that determines the acceptable level of ethical conduct by the character of those elected to and retained in office.

Is periodic recertification required to maintain the City of Ethics designation?
Beginning January 1, 2009 certification and re-certification will be good for four years. To remain a Certified City of Ethics, prior to the expiration of the four year period the organization must submit to GMA for review a resolution re-adopting the five ethics principles and a copy of any changes to the city's ethics ordinance.

Cities that have been certified for more than four years as of January 1, 2009 will be required to re-certify on schedule reflecting the order in which they were originally certified and thereafter they will be required to re-certify every four years.

GMA encourages each Certified City of Ethics to periodically train new and existing members of the city’s governing body on the ethics principles and the ethics requirements imposed on the city by federal, state and local law and ordinance.

What recognition do cities receive for achieving Cities of Ethics certification?
Each city designated as a Certified City of Ethics will receive a plaque and a logo which can be incorporated into city stationery, road signs and other materials at the city's discretion. In addition, GMA will send press releases to the local media notifying them that the city has earned this designation.

Which cities are already certified as Cities of Ethics?
There is a complete list of certified Cities of Ethics and Organizations available on the GMA website.

Is there also a Counties of Ethics program in Georgia?
Counties meeting GMA's criteria can be recognized as a Certified County of Ethics.

What role does the State Ethics Commission play in monitoring local government ethics violations?
The State Ethics Commission was created in 1987 and is responsible for enforcing Georgia's Ethics in Government Act. The Ethics Commission is governed by five members and is responsible for investigating, reporting on, and prosecuting violations of the Ethics in Government Act, as well as for maintaining and publishing annual reports on lobbyist spending and campaign financing. All state and local officials are required to comply with the provisions in the Act, including filing annual campaign financing disclosure statements. More information on the requirements of the Act can be found in GMA's publication “Ethics in Government: Charting the Right Course” and on the website of the State Ethics Commission.

Where can I find more information about ethics in local government?
For additional information about the Cities of Ethics program and local government ethics in general, city officials should consult GMA's publication, "Ethics in Government: Charting the Right Course." This publication can be printed directly from the GMA website. This is an excellent reference for city officials who are considering the process of developing and enacting comprehensive codes of ethics and in facing ethical dilemmas on a day-to-day basis.

GMA makes available on its website a sample ordinance as a starting point for cities in drafting their own ordinance. This ordinance cannot be adopted as drafted because it contains alternate provisions requiring that only one of them be selected. GMA's publication on ethics also contains sample language for use in ordinances and resolutions for the City of Ethics program. It should be noted that the sample ordinances and resolutions provided by GMA are meant to serve as a guideline only. Cities should always consult with their city attorney prior to enacting ethics ordinances. Careful consideration must be given to state laws that govern local officials and how they may interact with any proposed changes in the local law. Ethics ordinances that conflict with state laws and constitutional provisions will likely be declared invalid in a court of law.

Another excellent resource to reference when drafting an ethics ordinance is "Establishing, Following Ethics Rules Raises the Level of Trust" by Richard Carothers. Finally, in addition to the City of Ethics program, GMA also offers training on ethics through the Municipal Training Institute and at the Newly Elected Officials Institute.

Becoming a County of Ethics

To earn a "Certified County of Ethics" designation, a county must take two actions.

Adopt a resolution establishing the five ethics principles for the conduct of your county's officials.

These principles are designed to guide the elected officials as individuals and as a governing body. These principles are:
  • Serve others, not ourselves
  • Use resources with efficiency and economy
  • Treat all people fairly
  • Use the power of our position for the well being of our constituents
  • Create an environment of honesty, openness and integrity
The adopted resolution must include or at least reference the definitions of these principles. A sample resolution is available from GMA. A majority of the county's elected governing body must sign the resolution.

Adopt an ethics ordinance that meets minimum standards approved by the GMA Board.

The ordinance must contain definitions, an enumeration of permissible and impermissible activities by elected officials, due process procedures for elected officials charged with a violation of the ordinance and punishment provisions for those elected officials found in violation of the ordinance.

County officials should consult GMA's Sample Ethics Ordinance (see link at right) when considering provisions to include in a comprehensive codes of ethics. This document is the most recent and most accurately reflects the types of provisions essential to a local ethics ordinance. County officials may also consider reviewing Paulding County's ethics ordinance. For general guidance in facing ethical dilemmas on a day-to-day basis and on state ethics laws, see GMA's publication "Ethics in Government: Charting the Right Course." Following their adoption, the resolution, ordinance and a $85 appliation fee should be mailed to:
 
Georgia Municipal Association
Attention: Legal Department
201 Pryor Street, SW
Atlanta, Georgia 30303

The resolution and ordinance will be forwarded to the GMA Ethics Certification Committee, which is comprised of the Executive Committee of the GMA City Attorneys Section, for their review. If this panel of attorneys determines that both items meet the established requirements, the county will be designated as a "Certified County of Ethics."
 

Becoming a Organization of Ethics

Who Can be a Certified Organization of Ethics
Participation in this program is limited to organizations who have as their mission enhancing the quality of life, the provision of public services or economic development within their community. An organization must also be:
  • A public corporation or authority created under a general or local act of the Georgia General Assembly;
  • An authority or instrumentality of a Georgia local government;
  • Exempt from federal income taxation as a not for profit civic league or association under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and headquartered in Georgia; or
  • Exempt from federal income taxation as a not for profit business league or chamber of commerce under Section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code and headquartered in Georgia.
GMA reserves the right to accept or reject any organization for participation in this program for any reason.

How to Become a Certified Organization of Ethics
To earn a "Certified Organization of Ethics" designation, an organization must adopt a resolution containing two elements:

(1) Establishing the five ethics principles for the conduct of your organization's officials. These principals are designed to guide the officials as individuals and as a governing body. These principals are:
 
  • Serve others, not ourselves. 
  • Use resources with efficiency and economy. 
  • Treat all people fairly. 
  • Use the power of our position for the well being of our constituents and our community as a whole.
  • Create an environment of honesty, openness and integrity.
The adopted resolution must include or at least reference the definitions of these principles. A sample resolution is available from GMA. A majority of the officials comprising the organization’s governing body are required to sign the resolution.

(2) Amending the organization’s by-laws to enact clear ethics provisions that meet minimum standards approved by the GMA Board. The resolution must contain definitions, an enumeration of permissible and impermissible activities by organization officials, due process procedures for officials charged with a violation of the ethics by-laws, punishment provisions for those officials found in violation of the ethics by-laws and an enforcement provisions.

GMA recommends that organizations review the GMA sample ethics ordinance when drafting their by-law amendment. A copy of this ordinance is available on the GMA website. Another helpful resource is the model ethics ordinance crafted by the International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA). Copies of this ordinance may be obtained by contacting the GMA Legal Department at (404) 688-0472.

To the extent that state or federal law impose additional ethical duties on an organization or its officials, these additional duties must be disclosed to GMA and referenced or incorporated into the organization’s by-laws.

Following adoption, the resolution establishing the ethics principles and amending the organization’s by-laws should be mailed to:
Georgia Municipal Association
Attention: Legal Department
201 Pryor Street, SW
Atlanta, Georgia 30303
In addition to the resolution, the organization will be required to complete and submit a form explaining the organization’s mission and governing structure and identifying a contact person with the organization.
 
The resolution and completed form will be forwarded to the Ethics Certification Committee, which is comprised of the Executive Committee of the GMA City Attorneys Section, for their review. If this panel of attorneys determines that the organization and resolution meet the established requirements, the organization will be designated as a "Certified Organization of Ethics."
 
An appplication fee of $85 is also required.

Recognition for Certified Organizations of Ethics
Each organization designated as a Certified Organization of Ethics will receive a plaque and a logo which can be incorporated into organization stationery and other materials at the organization's discretion. In addition, GMA will send press releases to the local media notifying them that the organization has earned this designation.

Recertification
Beginning in January 1, 2009 certification and re-certification will be good for four years. To remain a Certified Organization of Ethics, prior to the expiration of the four year period the organization must submit to GMA for review a resolution re-adopting the five ethics principles and acknowledging that the members of the organization’s governing body have read and understand the organization’s ethics requirements in statute and in by-laws.

Organizations that have been certified for more than four years as of January 1, 2009 will be required to re-certify on schedule reflecting the order in which they were originally certified and thereafter they will be required to re-certify every four years.

GMA encourages each Certified Organization of Ethics to periodically train new and existing members of the organization’s governing body on the ethics principles and the ethics requirements imposed on the organization by law and through the organization’s by-laws.

Cities of Ethics

Acworth Kennesaw
Adairsville Kingsland
Albany LaGrange
Alma Lake Park
Alpharetta Lakeland
Aragon Lavonia
Arcade Lincolnton
Ashburn Lithonia
Atlanta Locust Grove
Attapulgus Loganville
Auburn Lovejoy
Augusta Luthersville
Avondale Estates Lyerly
Baconton Macon-Bibb County
Bainbridge Madison
Ball Ground Marshallville
Barnesville Maysville
Baxley McDonough
Blackshear Meansville
Blairsville Metter
Blakely Midway
Bloomingdale Milledgeville
Blythe Millen
Bowdon Milner
Braselton Milton
Bremen Monroe
Brookhaven Montezuma
Brooklet Monticello
Buford Morrow
Butler Moultrie
Byron Mount Airy
Cairo Mount Vernon
Calhoun Mountain Park
Camilla Nashville
Canton Nelson
Carl Newnan
Carnesville Nicholson
Cartersville Oakwood
Cave Spring Ocilla
Cedartown Patterson
Centerville Peachtree City
Chamblee Peachtree Corners
Clarkston Pembroke
Clayton Perry
Cleveland Pine Lake
Cochran Portal
Colquitt Powder Springs
Columbus Quitman
Commerce Ray City
Cordele Reidsville
Cornelia Remerton
Covington Reynolds
Cuthbert Riceboro
Dacula Richmond Hill
Dahlonega Ringgold
Dallas Roberta
Dalton Rochelle
Danielsville Rockmart
Dawsonville Rome
Decatur Roswell
Dillard Royston
Donalsonville Sale City
Doraville Sandersville
Douglas Sandy Springs
Douglasville Savannah
Dublin Screven
Duluth Senoia
Dunwoody Sharpsburg
East Point Sky Valley
Eastman Snellville
Eatonton Social Circle
Eton Springfield
Euharlee St. Marys
Fairburn Statesboro
Fayetteville Statham
Flemington Stockbridge
Flovilla Stone Mountain
Flowery Branch Sugar Hill
Folkston Suwanee
Forsyth Swainsboro
Fort Oglethorpe Sylvania
Fort Valley Sylvester
Gainesville Tallapoosa
Garden City Talmo
Glennville Thomaston
Good Hope Thomson
Gordon Thunderbolt
Grayson Tifton
Greensboro Tiger
Griffin Toccoa
Grovetown Trion
Guyton Tybee Island
Hahira Union City
Hamilton Union Point
Hampton Valdosta
Hapeville Varnell
Haralson Vidalia
Harlem Vienna
Hartwell Villa Rica
Hawkinsville Wadley
Hazlehurst Waleska
Helen Walnut Grove
Higgston Walthourville
Hinesville Warm Springs
Hiram Washington
Holly Springs Waverly Hall
Homeland Waycross
Homerville Waynesboro
Hoschton Winder
Jackson Winterville
Jefferson Woodbury
Jenkinsburg Woodstock
Jesup Young Harris
Johns Creek Zebulon
Jonesboro

Organizations Of Ethics

Buckhead Coalition, Inc. Georgia Mountains Regional Commission
Central Savannah River Area Regional Commission Northwest Georgia Regional Commission
Central Valdosta DDA Southern Georgia Regional Commission
Cobb Travel & Tourism Southwest Georgia Regional Commission

Counties Of Ethics

Cobb County Paulding County
Jackson County
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