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  • Once again, critic tramples truth to attack Georgia’s “F” on ethics

    March 30, 2012 --

    If I didn’t know better, I’d be outraged by the allegedly shameful and irresponsible conduct of the Center for Public Integrity, called to our attention Thursday in the AJC. But I do know better, so please allow me to explain how Rick Thompson’s opinion piece ignored CPI’s findings about Georgia’s limp anti-corruption laws while building a straw man that could easily be ripped apart.

    What’s the cost of NOT passing juvenile justice reforms?

    March 29, 2012 --

    By JIM WALLS Budget concerns stalled juvenile justice reform in Georgia this week, as the Georgia Senate declined to take it up in the waning days of the 2012 legislative session. But what about the costs of not passing juvenile justice reform? The proposed 246-page Child Protection and Public Safety Act would have strengthened programs […]

    Did automated audits replace Georgia’s ethics auditors? Nope.

    Did automated audits replace Georgia's ethics auditors? Nope.
    March 28, 2012 --

    Former state ethics official Rick Thompson says Georgia doesn’t need all the auditors and investigators it once had because auditing of politicians’ financial disclosures is now automated. This would seem to refute some of my recent findings about weak ethics enforcement in Georgia.

    Except, of course, that it’s not true.

    Juvenile code revision dead for 2012

    March 27, 2012 --

    Juvenile justice reform in Georgia is dead, at least for 2012. Lingering questions about the state’s cost for prosecutors and public defenders in juvenile courts scuttled the bill Monday at the 11th hour.

    Ethics complaint lodged against Senate Rules chairman

    March 26, 2012 --

    State Sen. Don Balfour violated his oath of office and Georgia law by filing false requests for mileage reimbursements, a complaint filed with the Senate Ethics Committee alleges. Balfour in September requested mileage reimbursements for commuting to the state Capitol on several days when lobbyists said they treated him to a meal or entertainment at out-of-town conferences.

    Money issues still swirl around proposed juvenile code rewrite

    March 26, 2012 --

    By JIM WALLS Wildly divergent estimates of the pricetag for Georgia’s proposed juvenile code continue to swirl around the Capitol as lawmakers return for their last three days of 2012. The 246-page bill has cleared the House and is expected to come before the full Senate this week, possibly Tuesday, with only minor changes. Gov. […]

    State can’t explain ‘unexplained’ purchase by ethics agency

    March 21, 2012 --

    Tying Up Loose Ends: The Georgia Secretary of State has no record of an allegedly “unexplained” purchase for $4,965 that was said to suggest financial mismanagement at the state ethics commission. Without documentation, we may never know what that purchase was for, or whether it really happened. Here’s why …

    Supremes: State ethics code not for school boards

    March 19, 2012 --

    Georgia’s Code of Ethics does not apply to members of local school boards, the Supreme Court of Georgia said today in a unanimous decision. The high court ruled that former Gov. Sonny Perdue had no authority in August 2010 to remove three members of the Warren County Board of Education for alleged misconduct.

    Councilman’s plan runs off 1st choice for ATL ethics officer

    Councilman's plan runs off 1st choice for ATL ethics officer
    March 19, 2012 --

    Atlanta’s Board of Ethics, which has operated for six months without an ethics officer, will have to make do a bit longer. Stacey Kalberman, the board’s unanimous choice for the job, withdrew Sunday as the City Council pondered whether to choose the ethics officer itself. “I frankly became disheartened when that happened,” Kalberman said.

    Don’t kill the messenger — just fix it

    Don't kill the messenger -- just fix it
    March 19, 2012 --

    Georgians can no longer fall back on “Thank god for Alabama!” We  trail the pack in a 50-state survey of government accountability laws and practices. Detractors, predictably, complain that bottom-of-the-barrel ranking is unfair and accuse me — the project’s Georgia reporter — of bias. As Sophocles observed 2,450 years ago, “No one loves the messenger who brings bad news.”

    Georgia ranks dead last on ethics, integrity scorecard

    Georgia ranks dead last on ethics, integrity scorecard
    March 19, 2012 --

    Georgia law books are chock-full of statutes written to curtail undue influence on political activity and public policy. So utilities and insurance companies can’t give to a candidate seeking an office that regulates them. Legislators can’t take political donations while in session. Politicians can’t use campaign money for personal benefit. State workers can’t accept gifts from vendors or lobbyists.

    Except when they can.

    Time and again, Georgia journalists and watchdog groups have found that money finds a way to flow around those laws. These and similar findings underscore what can sometimes be a gaping divide between Georgia’s legal standards for public accountability, on the one hand, and everyday practice. In a new, state-by-state analysis of ethics and accountability practices, Georgia ranks 50th with a grade of F from the State Integrity Investigation.

    DJJ: Investigation clears guards of inciting fights at youth jail

    DJJ: Investigation clears guards of inciting fights at youth jail
    March 14, 2012 --

    State officials have cleared three guards of accusations that they incited violence among girls held at a Rome juvenile detention facility. One of the guards was fired, though, for failing to prevent a Dec. 7 attack, and the other two were disciplined for unrelated policy violations. Some girls in the facility said they believed guards were complicit in some violence, but officials said the guards passed polygraph exams and “the totality of witness statements and information” did not support the charges.