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    Speaker’s appointment assures quorum for Oxendine ethics case

     

    House Speaker David Ralston today filled a 5-month-old vacancy on the State Ethics Commission, just in time for a hearing on charges against Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine.

    The speaker’s choice is Brunswick attorney Hillary S. Stringfellow. “Hillary will bring a fresh, new perspective to a commission tasked with ensuring accountability and transparency in government,” Ralston said in a prepared statement.  “She is a reliable, tough independent thinker of unquestioned integrity who will fulfill her duties with the highest standards in this service to our state.”

    Stringfellow’s first meeting could be a big one, as the commission addresses charges that a pair of affiliated Rome insurance companies donated $120,000 illegally to Oxendine’s gubernatorial campaign. The money was sent on two different dates in 2008 to 10 Birmingham, Ala.- based political action committees, which gave an equivalent amount on those same dates to Oxendine.

    Georgia law prohibits regulated entities — such as utilities and insurance companies — from making political contributions to the elected officials who regulate them.

    Attorneys representing the Rome businesses have challenged the impartiality of two commission members in the Oxendine case. Both are appointees Gov. Sonny Perdue, who is openly backing Karen Handel, his former chief of staff, in the governor’s race over Oxendine.

    If those two members recused themselves and the vacant seat remained unfilled, the five-member commission could not have mustered a quorum to hear complaints. A Fulton County judge is scheduled to hear arguments next week on the legal challenge to the commission’s Oxendine probe.

    Stringfellow replaces Robert Proctor, who resigned in early February before ever attending a commission meeting as a member. Proctor, who said he resigned for health reasons, had drawn critics’ fire for failing to pay an old ethics fine.

    Here’s a bio of the commission’s newest member, courtesy of Ralston’s office:

    Hillary S. Stringfellow, St. Simons Island– Stringfellow practices law with the Brunswick firm of Gilbert, Harrell, Sumerford & Martin, P.C. where she specializes in trust and estates planning.  She currently serves on the Judicial Nominating Commission.  Stringfellow is a member of the Southeast Georgia Boys and Girls Club Board of Directors, the American Cancer Society Victory Board and the Georgia FFA Foundation Sponsors Board.  She served as a law clerk under Judge Duross Fitzpatrick, United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.  Stringfellow received both her Bachelor’s and Juris Doctorate degrees from the University of Georgia.  She is married to Horace “Bud” Stringfellow.


     

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    4 Responses to “Speaker’s appointment assures quorum for Oxendine ethics case”

    1. Bill says:

      Pardon me, but this statement by you (“Georgia law prohibits regulated entities — such as utilities and insurance companies — from making political contributions to the elected officials who regulate them.”), while accurate, does not apply to the case of an insurance company contributing to the Oxendine-For- Governor campaign. It would only apply if Oxendine was running for Insurance Commissioner again.

    2. Jane says:

      “Georgia law prohibits regulated entities — such as utilities and insurance companies — from making political contributions to the elected officials who regulate them.” Please clarify if this is accurate…for a gubernatorial candidate. Where all of the monies returned? Who accepted the monies on behalf of Oxendine?

      Thanks!

    3. Jim Walls says:

      The insurance commissioner, even if he’s running for another office, cannot accept contributions from insurance companies.

    4. Jim Walls says:

      § 21-5-30.1. Contributions by regulated entities to elected executive officers or candidates

      (5) “Regulated entity” means any person who is required by law to be licensed by an elected executive officer or a board under the jurisdiction of an elected executive officer, any person who leases property owned by or for a state department, or any person who engages in a business or profession which is regulated by an elected executive officer or by a board under the jurisdiction of an elected executive officer.
      (b) No regulated entity and no person or political action committee acting on behalf of a regulated entity shall make a contribution to or on behalf of a person holding office as an elected executive officer regulating such entity or to or on behalf of a candidate for the office of an elected executive officer regulating such entity or to or on behalf of a campaign committee of any such candidate.
      (c) No person holding office as an elected executive officer and no candidate for the office of an elected executive officer and no campaign committee of a candidate for the office of an elected executive officer shall accept a contribution in violation of subsection (b) of this Code section.

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