Dec. 8, 2016 — The Georgia Supreme Court today approved a reprimand for House Speaker David Ralston for advancing money to a client in violation of State Bar rules.
The court also reinstated the law license of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis, whose 2015 conviction on corruption charges was overturned last week.
Dec. 8, 2016 — We’re gonna try something new today — live-blogging today’s meeting of the state ethics commission. Because we know how interested y’all are.
Already today, the Atlanta City Council’s Michael Julian Bond has been fined $45,000 for more than 300 campaign finance reporting violations.
House Speaker David Ralston (who’s been fined $1,600), Atlanta mayoral candidate Vincent Fort and Fulton County Commissioner Marvin Arrington Jr. — as well as many other worthies — also have business with the commission. Check in here for updates.
Dec 1, 2016 — Randal Mangham now says he misspoke when he recently disputed a question about more than $16,000 in ethics penalties and unpaid property taxes.
But those sums, courthouse and tax records show, are just a smidgen of the debts he’s run up since his election 16 years ago to the Georgia Legislature.
Mangham, a DeKalb County Commission candidate in a Dec. 6 runoff, is still working to pay off more than $800,000 in personal and business liabilities, records show.
Nov. 30, 2016 — Former DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis’s conviction for perjury and attempted extortion was overturned today by the Georgia Supreme Court.
Here’s court spokeswoman Jane Hansen’s excellent-as-always summary of the decision (and a link to the court’s full opinion).
Nov. 18, 2016 –Abra kadabra! With a few keystrokes, former Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers has made tens of thousands of campaign dollars — at least figuratively — disappear.
Rogers, whose campaign finances are under state investigation, reported after leaving the Senate in 2012 that his re-election fund held about $234,000 in unspent donations. But now he says, without explanation, that only $138,000 remained in the account.
The state ethics commission, in a complaint obtained by Atlanta Unfiltered, believes Rogers’ account has improperly reimbursed him for more than $27,000.
Nov. 10, 2016 — House Speaker David Ralston would receive a reprimand but no suspension for violating State Bar rules, according to papers filed today with the Georgia Supreme Court.
Ralston, who practices law in Blue Ridge, admitted improperly advancing $22,000 to a client who’d waited years for his case to come to trial. The speaker paid the money from his firm’s trust account, also a rule violation.
“Whether Ralston’s actions in advancing money to the Chernaks were the result of ignorance as contended, negligence, or an attempt to placate an increasingly frustrated client, the conduct clearly violates the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct,” special master Jon Peters wrote in his 20-page report to the high court.
Nov. 10, 2016 — Gov. Nathan Deal has appointed Charlie Bethel, a former floor leader of his in the Senate, to the Georgia Court of Appeals. Bethel was among 79 lawyers nominated for the job. The appointment, coming one day after he was re-elected to a fourth term, will necessitate a special election to fill Bethel’s seat in the Senate.
Bethel’s campaign paid The Sassafras Group, a consulting firm founded by Deal’s daughter-in-law Denise Deal, $3,100 for fund-raising in May 2016.
Nov. 6, 2016 — Dale Rutledge, running an ethics-based campaign against a House incumbent, lodged a complaint against himself in 2012. It cost him $975.
The complaint said he had donated and the campaign had spent about $7,200 before filing the necessary paperwork. Looking further, investigators found he also failed to report three $1,000 contributions in the weeks before the July 2012 primary.
In 2015, Rutledge signed a consent order with the state ethics commission and paid a $975 fine to resolve the case.
Nov. 6, 2016 — Jane Rutledge has self-funded her 2016 campaign, receiving no other political donations. The personal financial disclosure that she filed this year did not include her home as well as 15 acres of farmland. She told us the omission was an oversight and she would correct it.
Nov. 5, 2016 — Unions have donated $4,700 to Tamara Johnson-Shealey’s two races for the state Senate. Sixty percent of her campaign funds, though, have come from donors of $100 or less.
Johnson-Shealey left her home and business off the personal financial disclosure she filed in March 2016. She said the omission was an oversight and amended the disclosure on Nov. 4 after Atlanta Unfiltered called her attention to it.
Nov. 5, 2016 — Fran Millar’s campaign spent more than $2,100 in 2012 on social media, including Tweets and Facebook posts about Republican politics and the failures of Obamacare. Then he got taxpayers to foot the bill.
Millar’s Senate expense account paid him back for the social media expenses, even though bills paid with campaign funds aren’t eligible for reimbursement. Millar later returned the money, after Atlanta Unfiltered inquired about it, but insisted the spending was a legitimate use of his Senate account.
Valerie Clark, then principal of Central Gwinnett High School, retired in January 2009 after 38 years as an educator. A month later, news reports surfaced that an internal investigation had been under way to determine if she had blocked a disciplinary action against her son for allegedly soliciting marijuana on campus. Clark released a statement at the time saying she initially “did not have all the facts” and thought the incident had occurred off-campus. The school subsequently investigated and took all of the students to a disciplinary panel, she said.
Clark’s 2012 election opponent, Timothy Swiney, alleges that she co-sponsored a bill mandating destruction of school employees’ investigative files if they did not end in disciplinary action, “effectively destroy[ing] all evidence of wrongdoing.” The bill in question, however, did not pass and, even if it had, would not have sealed Clark’s investigative file.