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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.
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 […]
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 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.
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.
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. […]
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 …
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.
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.
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 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.
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.