Becoming an Organization of Ethics

January 30, 2009

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.

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.