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Ethics deals signed for ex-Speaker, 10 current & former lawmakers
By JIM WALLS
Oct. 15, 2009 — Former House Speaker Terry Coleman and 10 current and former lawmakers closed ethics complaints today with the payment of a fine and a promise not to do it again.
The State Ethics Commission, meeting in person for the second time this year, signed off on more than two dozen consent orders, including:
- Coleman, now Georgia’s deputy agriculture commissioner, who made more than $38,120 in mortgage payments on an Atlanta condominium from his campaign account beginning in 1997. Coleman’s business, Nameloc Corp., paid the money back in 2002 shortly before the vote in which the Dodge County lawmaker became speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives. Coleman paid a $2,900 fine as part of today’s consent order.
- U.S. Rep. David Scott, who failed to file reports after his 2002 election to Congress on the status of $83,053 left in his state Senate campaign account. As of his last report in January 2008, the money was still sitting there. Scott was fined $7,500.
- Former Secretary of State Cathy Cox, who was fined $500 for failing to specify the purpose of reimbursements to staff members from campaign funds.
- Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Charles Bannister, who was fined $500 for failing to report two campaign contributions.
- DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer. She admitted technical violations and late filings of campaign disclosures from 2000 through 2004. The case was settled five years after a preliminary hearing for a fine of $800.
- State Sen. Lester G. Jackson of Savannah. He failed to file disclosures of his personal and campaign finances in 2006 and, when the January 2008 case was opened, had not paid fees for late filings of five other disclosures. He was fined $250.
- State Rep. Joe Heckstall of East Point. Heckstall failed for several years to disclose ownership of his motivational-speaking firm, The Powerfilled Thinking Group Inc. He was fined $1,500. (The commission has no jurisdiction over another aspect of the complaint, which questioned speaking fees paid to Heckstall by the city governments of College Park and Morrow. Alan Gravitt, the complainant and a high school science teacher, was particularly offended that College Park paid Heckstall roughly $500 an hour to present “pseudoscience” in his talk, including the notion that “water when freezing, reacts differentially to positive and negative human communication.” The complaint also included criticism by a Richmond County grand jury in 2002 of more than $3,500 in motivational speaking fees paid to Heckstall by the Augusta Fire Department. The fire chief at the time, Ronnie Few, was a friend of Heckstall’s. Of those who heard the lawmaker’s presentations, the grand jury said, “none felt he had helped the county in fighting fires. At best it was a waste of taxpayer money; at worst, it has the appearance of an impropriety.”
- Rep. Sharon Beasley-Teague Elnamala. The Riverdale lawmaker could not produce documentation for $659 in cash withdrawals from her campaign account. She was fined $2,500 and ordered to pay back the $659.
- State Rep. Randal Mangham of Decatur, who failed to file three campaign disclosures and, as of November 2007, owed $800 in late filing fees for six others. He was fined $5,000.
- Former state Rep. LaNett Stanley-Turner of Atlanta, who failed to file two campaign spending reports and to pay late fees for five other disclosures. She was fined $3,250.
- Former state Sen. Mike Crotts of Covington, who failed to disclose business and real estate interests after he qualified for the ballot in a 2008 state Senate election, which he lost. He was fined $500.
- Former state Sen. Regina Thomas of Savannah. Thomas failed to file disclosures of her personal finances for 2005 and 2006. She was fined $2,500.
The commission also agreed to meet next Wednesday by conference call to discuss hiring a new executive secretary to replace Rick Thompson, whose last day is Friday. Staff attorney Tom Plank will serve in the position in the interim.