Macon Water Authority’s new ethics rules take effect. Here’s what that means

The Georgia General Assembly approved the new rules that Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law Thursday


Liz Fabian

The Macon Water Authority board and the utility’s employees are under new ethics rules passed by the Georgia General Assembly.

If a Macon Water Authority board member runs afoul of ethics rules in the future, he or she could be removed from office under revisions approved by the Georgia General Assembly last month, and signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp Thursday.

The amendment to the 1992 Macon Water Authority Act comes at the request of MWA Chairman Gary Bechtel after the authority’s internal investigation launched late in 2021 determined District 2 representative Desmond Brown was found to have a “blatant conflict of interest” in billing the authority for flood mitigation work performed by Brown’s company Blue Armour Network of America.

The board censured Brown, but did not refer the case for legal prosecution or appeal to the governor to have him removed for violating his oath of office. By the time the investigation concluded, Brown was off the authority.

Brown vacated the District 2 seat to run for MWA chairman, but after he lost the run-off to  Bechtel, Brown regained the seat in a special election last year.

Although Bechtel requested the new rules, he recently told The Macon Newsroom that he has no intention of trying to oust Brown for his previous conduct after voters in the district put him back in office following the public allegations about his board conduct.

The amended MWA Act covers board members, officers and employees of the authority and requires they “demonstrate by their example the highest standards of ethical conduct, so that the public may justifiably have trust and confidence in the integrity of the authority.”

It specifically outlaws board members and employees engaging in any business or transaction in which they have a financial interest which is incompatible with the proper discharge of official duties.

They cannot disclose confidential information concerning the property, governance or affairs of the authority without proper legal authorization, or use that information to advance the financial or private interest of that person or others.

Valuable gifts cannot be accepted from any person or entity interested in doing business with the authority, excluding campaign contributions.

MWA board members and staff also can’t represent private interests in any action or proceeding against the authority, nor can they vote or participate in any contract between he authority and any business or entity in which he or she has a substantial financial interest.

They also must disclose any financial interest they may have on any proposal before the authority and cannot use authority property for financial benefit, convenience or profit.

The act also bans MWA board members, employees and their family members from having any interest that is incompatible with the proper discharge of their duties or that would impair their judgment or official actions taken.

MWA associates cannot use their office to interfere with or affect the results of any election or nomination for public office, or coerce political contributions.

Any employee or appointed officer who violates provisions of the Act may be reprimanded, put on probation, demoted, suspended or fired.

Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-301-2976.