DeKalb’s ethics officer faces lawsuit, more complaints

March 24, 20174min1570
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Sharon Barnes Sutton
Stacey Kalberman

Attorney Dwight Thomas has filed a lawsuit on behalf of former DeKalb County Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton against DeKalb Ethics Officer Stacey Kalberman and the DeKalb County Board of Ethics.

The suit, filed on March 21 in DeKalb County Superior Court, alleges Kalberman and the board violated state law by directing her to lobby the DeKalb County Legislation Delegation.

The suit comes amidst three ethics complaints now filed against Kalberman and the board. Amos King and Rhea Johnson filed complaints on March 23 concerning Kalberman lobbying. Last week, State Rep. Vernon Jones filed an ethics complaint against her with the DeKalb Ethics Board also alleging she was at the State Capitol lobbying legislators.
Jones and others are discussing potential changes to the current ethics legislation as comprehensive overhaul that also would provide appointments to the board by the Dekalb delegation from whatever organization the delegation finds appropriate.

Meanwhile, Barnes Sutton filed a police report on March 23 with DeKalb County Police Department’s Tucker Precinct stating that she was accosted by a man who drove up to her car and threatened her. She said the man asked her if she was Sharon Barnes Sutton and when she replied yes, he said she had better get out of DeKalb County.

“Now she has been made a target of violent threats. That’s going a little far,” Thomas said. “She did the right thing to challenge policy by going through a court of law. Now, she’s a target.”

Kalberman stated last week she could not comment on Jones’ complaint because she had not seen it, but denied that she was involved in lobbying.

Thomas’ lawsuit said that Kalberman contacted House Rep. Scott Holcomb, Sen. Elena Parent and other political officials asking them to amend legislation concerning how ethics board members are appointed. The meetings took place on or about March 6, 13 and 14, the suit states.

Thomas said Kalberman also gave a television interview to Channel 2 where she accused Jones of trying to prevent the Board of Ethics from reviewing allegations of misconduct among elected county officials and employees. Thomas said in addition to violating state ethics laws by being involved in politics and lobbying without a state license, Kalberman also has “consistently and publicly made negative comments about Barnes Sutton even as the former commissioner awaits pending action challenging the validity of the board.

Jones said state lawmakers should not make any moves to change the laws concerning the ethics board until a judge rules in the Barnes Sutton case.

Meanwhile, DeKalb Commissioner Kathie Gannon, who serves as the presiding officer of the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners, said Thomas “is working very hard for his client.”

“He’s pulling out all stops. The Ethics Board is moving forward hearing their cases,” Gannon said.

Thomas said Barnes Sutton has a right to challenge the constitutional legality of the board.

“Every elected and public official should be demanding accountability from the Ethics Board,” Thomas said. “We must have an ethical Ethics Board.”

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