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  • atlanta mainstream

    Balfour pays back $800 for mileage, per diem

     

    By JIM WALLS

    Sen. Don Balfour, conceding he could not have been in two places at once, has returned nearly $800 to Georgia taxpayers for per diem and mileage reimbursements.

    As Atlanta Unfiltered reported in February, Balfour claimed those expense reimbursements for several days in 2011 when he said he drove from his Snellville home to Atlanta on state business. Lobbyists, however, reported paying for Balfour’s meals or entertainment on those same days at conferences in New Orleans and San Antonio.

    Balfour told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he was reviewing state reimbursements over multiple years “to make sure everything is squared away.” He said he made the $800 refund in an abundance of caution even though he had not had time to review the relevant records, the AJC reported.

    The newspaper said its analysis found other days when Balfour claimed mileage reimbursements for commuting to Atlanta when lobbyists disclosures indicated he was out of town.

    The payments were among those cited in a March 15 complaint to the Senate Ethics Committee alleging that Balfour’s acceptance of the reimbursements violated his oath of office.

    The ethics complaint also requested an investigation of:

    • $17,030 in campaign reimbursements to Balfour since 2003 that did not disclose the end recipient of the payments, and often the purpose, as required by state law.
    • State mileage reimbursements for about 120 other days in 2011. Balfour, whose campaign rents a midtown Atlanta condo year-round for his use, signed vouchers claiming he drove from Snellville to Atlanta on each of those days.

    Legislators may collect $173 a day for expenses, plus mileage, when they’re on state business. Balfour billed the state $21,279 in per diem and $4,191 mileage for service in 2011, over and above his compensation for days that the Senate was in session.

    Senate rules allow leadership and some committee chairs to claim payment for an unlimited number of days, but they must submit “a brief statement of the nature of the legislative duties carried out.” Balfour did not submit that information.

     Balfour charged most of his days to the Rules Committee, which he chairs. The Rules Committee, which sets the calendar for each legislative day, did not meet outside of the legislative session in 2011.

     

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