Good news for open government advocates: The Georgia Supreme Court today upheld a lower court’s assessment of legal fees to citizens who challeged closed meetings held by the Statesboro City Council. The ruling comes after the council met in secret last year to discuss eliminating the jobs of the city’s police and fire chiefs.
A Northwest Georgia magistrate who regularly smoking marijuana and kicked in two doors at an in-law’s estranged husband’s house may never again serve as a judge in Georgia. So says the state Supreme Court, which issued a 7-page opinion this morning that removed Catoosa County Magistrate Court Judge Anthony Peters for such erratic behavior.
Two lobbyists are finalists for the top job at the Georgia Campaign Finance Commission, the panel said today. The nominees for executive secretary are: Holly LaBerge, director of government relations for the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council, and Jerry Presley, a career public servant who lobbied for the Council for Quality Growth in 2008.
DeKalb County Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton failed to disclose more than $101,000 in contributions to her campaigns in 2006 and 2008. For that, she agreed Friday to pay a $2,500 fine. Then-state Rep. Stan Watson, a fellow commissioner, also agreed to a $1,500 fine Friday for raising campaign money while the state Legislature was in session.
The chairman of the Georgia Campaign Finance Commission, who says his appointment may have been illegal, is stepping down.
Patrick Millsaps, who initiated the personnel moves that cost the commission its top two investigators, will continue to serve until a replacement is named.
Hearings will start this month on an overhaul of Georgia’s sunshine law that would open more meetings to the public and pull hidden public records out of private databases. Attorney General Sam Olens predicts House Bill 397 can pass the state Legislature next year, though he admitted the law doesn’t go as far as he would like.
State Rep. Paulette Rakestraw Braddock owes more than $36,000 in taxes, interest and penalties, the IRS says. But the debt will not affect her standing as a Georgia legislator. The debt for unpaid payroll taxes was incurred by the Paulding County lawmaker’s failed direct-mail marketing firm, but she said she couldn’t negotiate a settlement until the debt was rolled over to become her personal liability.
Fellow travelers Vincent Fort and Jim Wooten are among those who think Sam Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, needs to resign over the chamber’s complicity in covering up the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal. If he does, Williams will leave behind an annual salary nearing 7 figures.
A federal appeals court has granted a Federal Trade Commission request to temporarily halt the sale of an Albany hospital. In April, the FTC alleged that Phoebe Putney Health System’s purchase of Palmyra Medical Center would raise health care costs and that the deal had been structured to avoid anti-trust scrutiny.
A child molestor who spent 22 months too long in prison can sue Fulton County court officials for mishandling papers that would have led to his release, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled today. Former Fulton County Superior Court Clerk Juanita Hicks cannot claim immunity from liability, the high court ruled in a unanimous decision, because the error breached her statutory duty to notify prison officials of the man’s reduced sentence.
Georgia Southern University has rebuffed state Sen. Cecil Staton, demanding full payment for the school’s share of radio broadcast revenue and rejecting his effort to cut the debt in half. The university said Staton, who chairs the Senate committee overseeing its budget, still owes $53,000 and change.
Sen. Cecil Staton‘s broadcasting company paid Georgia Southern University more than $24,000 yesterday, just hours before he denounced a report that it had breached its contract to broadcast the school’s football games. Staton lashed out at a broadcast report on the matter as “the worst side of sloppy journalism.” He did not respond to questions about the check that he sent on the same day the story aired.
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You can look up liens for back taxes or other debts in the property record room at your county courthouse. For a fee, a statewide database of liens and property records can be searched online at the Georgia Superior Court Clerks' Cooperative Authority.
The GSCCCA database is not foolproof, though. A thorough search of Fulton County's property records, for instance, will require a visit to the courthouse. That's because Fulton County's records are, to use a technical term, screwed up. Some fairly recent records have been lost so some lien cancellations, among other things, are not indexed properly. Some cancellations are not recorded by the clerk for a year of more after they are filed. In one instance, the tax commissioner did not cancel the lien after it had been paid off.