State legislators say they welcome transparency regarding their personal finances — corporate and real estate holdings, government contracts and the like. But who decides what constitutes transparency and how diligently to check whether they’re truly telling us what we’re entitled to know? They do. Just as war is too important to be left to the generals, transparency is too important to be left to the politicians.
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Here's the plan... The Internet brims over with opinion. Facts? Not so much. We want to restore the balance. We dig up & share public records on ethics and transparency in public institutions. Tips, documents & feedback are welcome. We also offer tutorials (we know, it's geeky) so you, too, can dig up public records.
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Oct. 22, 2014 — Ethics complaints against Gov. Nathan Deal were officially resolved in 2012, when he paid $3,350 in administrative fees for filing defective campaign and personal finance disclosures. But a review of the state ethics commission’s files shows the investigation leading to that settlement was never really completed. Staffers abandoned inquiries into tens of thousands of dollars spent on air travel and credit card charges, and questioned no one but lawyers for the campaign accused of wrongdoing. Rather than ensuring transparency in a state with a legacy of graft and corruption, the ethics commission settled for the easy answers, and sometimes none at all. Read the full story.
July 16, 2014 — Alisha Morgan has made no secret of her support for charter schools or her affiliation with the pro-charter Black Alliance for Educational Options, noting it in several online biographies. But when filed her personal financial disclosures with the state ethics commission in 2012, she neglected to mention that the alliance had been paying her.
Morgan served on the alliance’s board in 2010 and 2011 before taking a salaried position there to recruit and train other activists for charter schools and school choice. A campaign spokesman said Morgan would review her past disclosures, which did not list either position at the alliance, and amend them “if necessary.”
July 16, 2014 — Wilson’s Democratic opponent for state school superintendent omitted information from personal financial disclosures, but Wilson didn’t file a disclosure at all in 2012. Her 2014 disclosure, due in March, was filed July 13 after Atlanta Unfiltered contacted her campaign to ask where it was. A staffer indicated Wilson had tried to file the 2014 report twice previously but did not respond to telephone messages seeking more information.
As of July 2014, Wilson owed the state ethics commission $250 in late filing fees. Wilson’s campaign manager said she paid $325 in late fees on Wilson’s behalf July 18 when ethics staffers told her that was all that she owed. (The remaining unpaid fees can be found under a different spelling of Wilson’s name.) The commission, for logistical and cost reasons, does not notify candidates when they owe late filing fees.
Buck’s biggest donor so far is International Teacher Training Institute Global (ITTI Global), an organization with offices in Duluth that organized a 2013 cultural exchange with South Korea for Georgia teachers. ITTI also donated $20,000 to Buck’s boss, state School Superintendent John Barge, for his 2014 race for governor.
Woods came close to becoming Georgia’s school superintendent in 2010, losing the Republican primary by just 16,000 votes to eventual winner John Barge. His campaign raised about $28,000 through June 30. He missed the filing deadline for his most recent disclosure, which was due July 16.
Oct. 18, 2014 — Sen. Fran Millar reimbursed the state last week for more than $2,100 taken from his legislative expense account that wound up in his campaign fund. Millar wrote the check a few days after Atlanta Unfiltered asked him about several unusual 2012 donations to his campaign — four checks, all disclosed as coming from the Georgia General Assembly.
May 22, 2014 – Retiring Sen. Cecil Staton will start earning a six-figure state salary next month at the University System of Georgia. Staton resigned his Senate seat today to become a vice chancellor overseeing programs for military veterans, budding entrepreneurs, international students and continuing education. “The idea is to try to bring all those folks under one person to direct them and give some coherence to it,” a University System spokesman said. The five-term senator, who did not seek re-election this year after a close shave in 2012, will start his new job June 1 at an annual salary of $165,000.
Sept. 27, 2013 — Sen. Don Balfour was indicted today, based largely on Atlanta Unfiltered’s February 2012 report on sketchy entries in his expense account, for claiming per diem and mileage that he wasn’t entitled to.
Over at Fox 5, Dale Russell reported Wednesday night on an allegation that politics is behind a push to reopen an ethics investigation of U.S. Senate candidate Karen Handel. The state ethics commission settled three complaints against Handel in April with dismissals and her payment of a $75 late filing fee. Now, Russell reports, ethics […]