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Task Force for the Promotion of Public Trust Releases Report and Recommendations

Task Force recommends City officials create an independent Inspector General’s Office with, among other features, subpoena power, confidential investigations, and whistleblower protection

Post Date:10/14/2019 4:09 PM

Mayor’s Office of Communications
55 Trinity Avenue, Suite 2500 • Atlanta, Georgia 30303

 

Michael Smith, Press Secretary
404-546-1465, office
470-372-8752, cell
mismith@atlantaga.gov

Jordan Johnson, Communications Manager
404-546-1956, office
470-409-0015, cell
jordjohnson@atlantaga.gov

 

 

Media Contact: Danielle Burnette, Esq. at dburnette@sgrlaw.com or (404) 815-3500.                  

Task Force for the Promotion of Public Trust Releases Report and Recommendations 

Task Force recommends City officials create an independent Inspector General’s Office with, among other features, subpoena power, confidential investigations, and whistleblower protection

ATLANTA—The Task Force for the Promotion of Public Trust (“Task Force”) released its report containing recommendations for potent operational and legislative changes to the City’s ethics, transparency and compliance framework. The Task Force, chaired by Retired Georgia Supreme Court Justice Leah Ward Sears, recommended the City create an independent Inspector General’s Office with the jurisdiction and power to identify and investigate fraud, waste, corruption, abuse and misconduct. Sears said, “A government for the people depends for its’ success on the integrity of the people it places in positions of trust.  The Task Force believes that the creation of an independent Inspector General’s Office is the best way to ensure that integrity as well as to restore trust in Atlanta City government.

The recommendation was informed by research on best practices from other cities. The City should consolidate the various current investigative functions divided among the City Attorney’s Office Compliance Unit, the newly created Independent Compliance Officer, and the Ethics Office, under the new Inspector General.

 

The Inspector General’s Office must have:

•           Broad jurisdiction to seek out fraud, waste, abuse, corruption, and misconduct and have the authority to initiate its own investigations;

•           A fixed term of appointment and removal only for cause;

•           Budgetary protection;

•           Direct subpoena power; and

•           The ability to keep investigations confidential and to protect whistleblowers from retaliation.

In addition to the creation of an Inspector General, the Task Force recommended that the City strengthen the current ethics, transparency and compliance framework in a number of ways.  First, the Ethics Officer and Independent Compliance Officer should have direct subpoena power and not need to go to the Board of Ethics and Independent Compliance to have subpoenas discussed in a public meeting. Second, the Ethics Officer and Independent Compliance Officer should have the ability, depending on the type of investigation, to keep the fact of their investigation confidential and need not notify the subject of the investigation at an early stage. Third, the City should enhance its existing whistleblower ordinance to provide an enforcement mechanism for the prohibition on retaliation against whistleblowers. Fourth, the current City offices charged with investigations should better coordinate their activities, clarify roles and responsibilities among themselves and to the City workforce, and ensure that investigations of high-ranking officials are executed with independence.

In February 2019, the Mayor and Atlanta City Council established by Resolution the Task Force to evaluate the efficacy of the City’s current legislative and administrative policies and procedures related to ethics, transparency, and compliance, and to survey national models of government and corporate transparency, ethics, and compliance in order to make written recommendations to the Mayor, the Council President and the Atlanta City Council for meaningful reforms in these areas. The Mayor, City Council and City Council President appointed the following members to the Task Force:  Retired Georgia Supreme Court Justice Leah Ward Sears (Chair), Don Penovi (Vice-Chair), Derek Alphran, O.V. Brantley, Linda DiSantis, Retired U.S. District Court Judge Duffey, Dr. Robert Franklin, Jr., MaryAnne Gaunt, Lawton Jordan, Michael Sterling, Former State Representative Joe Wilkinson, and Paul Zucca,. Task Force members included former prosecutors, members of academia, former local government attorneys, residents of the City of Atlanta, and former judges.

Over the course of five public meetings conducted over five months, the Task Force heard presentations from 10 subject matter expert witnesses, including City officials, whose offices have roles with audits, investigations, ethics and oversight, the Inspectors General of Philadelphia and Baltimore, and the former Director of the Center for Advancement of Public Integrity at Columbia University Law School. The Task Force also received input from members of the public, reviewed relevant documents, including city and state statutes, ordinances and other relevant reading material, and vigorously discussed perceived strengths and weaknesses in the current ethics and compliance landscape.

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For more information about the City of Atlanta, please visit www.atlantaga.gov or watch City Channel 26. Follow the City of Atlanta on Facebook and Twitter @CityofAtlanta. Follow Mayor Bottoms on Facebook and Twitter @KeishaBottoms

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