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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May 14, 2013 — Gov. Nathan Deal last week unexpectedly vetoed a bill that would have given $9 million in sales tax breaks to charitable medical clinics, federally qualified health centers, food banks and other charities. The measure, which breezed through the House and Senate, would have benefited many safety-net providers that expect to carry an extra patient load once the federal Affordable Care Act begins phasing out hospital subsidies for indigent care next year.
Deal’s veto message noted that a 2010 tax reform panel recommended that all non-government and non-business exemptions be allowed to expire so the Legislature could decide whether they should be renewed. He did not apply that principle, however, when he signed a bill last month extending an estimated $18 million tax break to Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., a Savannah-based manufacturer of luxury jets.
Tru-Vision Security Consultants, Tanner’s private security business, gave up its six-figure contract with Lanier Technical College in January 2013 on the day he took the oath of office to serve as a state legislator.
Tanner said he did his research and found Tru-Vision could have continued doing business with the college if it won a new contract through a competitive sealed-bid process. “However,” he wrote in a Jan. 14 letter to a university official, “I feel it best that I turn this work over to another company to avoid any appearance of impropriety.”
Dickson, who retired in 2003 as Whitfield County school superintendent, has stayed busy since then as a part-time legislator and as chairman of Georgia United Credit Union, which has become one of Georgia’s largest, quadrupling in size in the last decade.
Georgia United converted from a federal- to a state-chartered institution in 2010. Soon thereafter, it merged with six other credit unions, including the State Employees Credit Union, making potential members of all employees of state government, state universities and Georgia’s 159 county governments.
Rampage shootings have often prompted legislators in those states to contemplate tightening rules after rampage shootings, but a ProPublica survey shows few measures gained passage. In fact, several states have made it easier to buy more guns and take them to more places.
Some of the nation’s top medical schools cracked down on professors who give paid promotional talks for drugmakers last year, and the firms themselves cut back on such spending in the wake of mounting scrutiny. ProPublica first published its Dollars for Docs database in October 2010 listing payments to doctors from seven drug companies. When we updated it this September — with data from five additional companies — spending by some of the firms was down.
Political parties and other powerful players use the once-a-decade redistricting process to advance their own goals — often at the expense of voters. A recently released trove of email messages from Ohio offers a rare inside glimpse into how it works. The messages, sent from June to September, show collaboration between the national GOP and state Republicans to redraw Ohio’s maps and thus cement control of both the statehouse and a majority of congressional districts.
Watchdog News will look a little different from here on out, as much of what The Atlanta Journal-Constitution publishes in that arena is now behind a paywall (although they don’t like to call it that). We’ll try to post links to other news outlets’ coverage rather than link you to a paywall.
- School resource officers with troubled pasts
- Vet committed suicide at VA during feds’ probe into mismanagement
- Favoritism investigated inside Douglas County DA’s office
- Ga. water negotiator’s role may be seen as conflict
- Audit: Ga. Regents University spending on wedding violated policy
- Whistleblower suit filed against ATL mayor, ex-girlfriend
- Ogeechee River polluter has factory workers drinking bottled water
- Ga. National Guard $1.8M logistics contract questioned
- Narconon warrants show millions in alleged fraud
- House speaker uses law to delay vehicular homicide case, again
- DFCS employees disciplined in controversial adoption case
- Super PAC donor Adelson targeting Ga.’s 2014 Senate race?
- Atlanta City Councilwoman Cleta Winslow arrested for DUI
- Incentives sometimes don’t deliver promised jobs for Ga.
- State never appoved $280K in renovations at college president’s house
- Does this mayor own a town?
- Atlanta’s water needs cited in plan to pump water from another aquifer into Flint River
- Profs say Young Harris College muzzled hazing scandal
- African-American residents sue Rochelle, Ga., over decades of sewage dumping
- DeKalb school systems outspends others on legal expenses
- Agency accused of shoddy work on low-income homes
- Audit: Coroners don’t report suicides as required
- ACLU to investigate Lumpkin Co. HS prayer meeting
- Ethics board hears complaints against Canton Tea Party
- Governor suspends Brunswick city commissioner
- Georgia law conceals information on child deaths
- VA hospital promises changes after audit claims mismanagement in 3 deaths
- Some immigrants spend weeks in solitary confinement
- Georgia ranks near bottom on hospital infections
- FAA: UPS flew improperly maintained cargo planes
- Regulation of fertilizer plants spotty in Georgia
- Parents: Police botched son’s homicide investigation
- Ex-judge accused by 3 of sexual harassment
- Do homeowners’ association security guards overstep their bounds?
- University president’s $75K garage addition planned without state approval
- University president to reimburse state for resources used at private wedding
- University patrol car picked up Azziz’s children from school
- Some Augusta board members serving in violation of city code
- State forbids Midtown Alliance from using community-service workers
- Peachtree City agencies tackle harassment claims
May 21, 2013 — Fayette County commissioners have until June 25 to propose fixes for election practices that a federal judge ruled today are racially discriminatory.
All bets are off, though, if commissioners decide to appeal the ruling, a choice they will discuss in a closed-door session Thursday.
March 29, 2013 — A bill to seal allegations of misconduct inside Georgia’s juvenile prisons remained stuck in committee when the Legislature adjourned last night. Senate Bill 69, sponsored by Jack Murphy and others, would have exempted reports of “abuses or wrongdoing in the juvenile justice system” from disclosure under the Georgia Open Records Act and authorized dismissal of whistleblowers leaking such allegations to the news media or advocacy groups.
Common Cause of Georgia just sent out this news release, which I post here in its entirety: Atlanta, GA – In a surprising response to a letter sent to ethics committee conferees requesting consideration of amendments and informing members of advocacy calls to voters in their legislative districts, House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal (R-Bonaire) replied [...]
Jan. 17, 2013 — Atlanta city officials bought at least $128,000 in gift cards since 2008 but can’t say exactly what they did with them, the city auditor has found.
Jack Murphy lost his chairmanship of the Senate Banking Committee on Monday, two years after the feds sued him for his alleged role in a quarter-billion-dollar bank failure. At least Murphy got a new committee — Regulated Industries — with something to do. Don Balfour, as expected, was also removed as chair of the powerful Rules committee after paying a $5,000 ethics fine. Now he’ll chair one of the least significant, at least until the 2020 Census — Reapportionment.