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A Marietta attorney who won 105,000 votes in a 2008 race for a Cobb County judgeship was disbarred today by the Georgia Supreme Court. In a 10-page ruling, the court said Joan Palmer Davis failed to show up in court on behalf of a client who was seeking to terminate his child-support obligations, then tried to resign from the case without telling him.
Georgia has the longest waiting list in the nation — 1,348 — for people with HIV to get government drug assistance. Most of those on the waiting list are getting help from pharmaceutical company’s low-income assistance programs, one advocate said, but “there are a lot of concerns that people are falling through the cracks.’’
A DeKalb County fire captain won his job back today as the Georgia Supreme Court ruled CEO Burrell Ellis must abide by decisions of a hearing officer, the county’s Merit System Council and a Superior Court judge. Capt. Sell Caldwell III was one of several firefighters who were dismissed after a fatal 2010 house fire in Dunwoody.
Investigators have reportedly questioned Atlanta’s Stan Thomas about possibly illicit payments tied to development of a proposed Cayman Islands resort. Thomas has been in the headlines in recent years for his relationship with former Gov. Sonny Perdue and the somewhat spectacular collapse of his real-estate empire. Now, according to news reports, Royal Cayman police say they are investigating allegations that Thomas paid Cayman premier McKeeva Bush as much as $375,000 in 2004.
What, exactly, is a lobbyist? That’s the common thread in countless conversations around the Capitol these days. Full-time lobbyists are organizing a trade group so they can hang out more and project a more professional image to the public. And two other groups — smaller public-interest groups and business executives and sales representatives — say they’d rather not have to register as lobbyists, thank you very much.
DeKalb County schools paid $341,000 several years back for a salary audit that found they were overpaying employees by millions of dollars a year. Now, school officials can’t seem to locate those findings. So, what happened?
About 180 times last year, state disclosures show, a lobbyist gave House Speaker David Ralston something: A meal, a drink, a round of golf, a family trip to Europe. We know these lobbyists spent about $35,000 on the speaker in 2010. What we don’t know is much more significant: What did they want from him? Most lobbyists never answer that question, and Georgia doesn’t really make them.
Among the consequences of Georgia’s new ethics law: It will require more reporting by lobbyists and will probably thin out their herd, at least at the state level. It will relieve hundreds of the new governor’s appointees of the need to disclose even a smidgen about their personal finances. And, combined with budget problems, it will require the state ethics commission for the next several months to set aside one of its core missions, says its chairman, Patrick Millsaps.
Everyone should make resolutions for the New Year, if only to have new goals. In that spirit, we offer 10 suggestions for Georgia legislators to strengthen government ethics in 2011. Among them: Let’s make ex-Speaker Glenn Richardson the last legislator to transfer all his leftover campaign cash to a committee where he can spend it any way he wishes.
The Joint Legislative Ethics Committee has rejected a complaint about a possible conflict between a lawmaker’s public duties and private work. A spokesman said the panel will not consider complaints based solely on news articles, in this case my recent piece on a $40,000 contract between Rep. Earl Ehrhart’s consulting business and an advocacy group seeking public funding for the arts. That standard makes it next to impossible for citizens to get the committee to investigate a lawmaker’s conduct.
Robb Pitts is off the hook for accepting $45,000 in illegal campaign contributions in 2001, thanks to a Fulton County judge, Kimberly Adams, who ruled the statute of limitations had expired. Now lawyers are attempting to apply the judge’s ruling to other cases more than a year old. The AG’s office says the potential precedent could be devastating to enforcement of ethics laws in Georgia.
The State Ethics Commission in coming months will talk to the governor, the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House about their alleged ethics violations. At roughly the same time, the agency’s leadership will ask these very same officials for more money to fulfill its mission and to restore powers that have been stripped away in recent years. This would make sense in only two places: the Georgia Capitol and Alice’s Wonderland. You can decide where the hatter is madder.
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This page covers financial disclosures by public officials -- including personal finances, campaign accounts and business transactions with public agencies.