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Ethics reform for dummies, Part 1: Lobbyist gifts

Ethics reform for dummies, Part 1: Lobbyist gifts
March 26, 2013 --

March 26, 2013 — To Georgia legislators: As you struggle toward a compromise on ethics “reform,” here are five suggestions that would REALLY help to restore Georgians’ faith in government.
1) Limit lobbyist gifts to $25 per day, with a limit of four per year. That allows them to buy you a meal and a beer, but not the bottles of wine that really drive up the cost up of these $100 meals. And no gifts for spouses. Pay for those yourselves. Suck it up.

Ex-Sen. Ronnie Chance: Undisclosed condo, non-profits

Ex-Sen. Ronnie Chance: Undisclosed condo, non-profits
December 21, 2011 --

Ronnie Chance has neglected to disclose several aspects of his personal finances in recent years, most notably a condo in downtown Atlanta that he purchased from lobbyist Christina Searles Tai. Chance also omitted his service on the boards of directors of three local non-profit groups. (After the Transparency Project asked him about the omissions, Chance corrected several years’ disclosures to include the condo and his board memberships.)

Feds find Ga.’s insurance reviews lacking

October 12, 2011 --

From Georgia Health News: Georgia doesn’t meet federal requirements on consumers’ ability to get a third-party review of their appeals against an insurer’s coverage decisions. That may mean Georgia by 2012 will have to contract with an independent review organization to handle consumer complaints or with the feds to oversee the process.

Lobbyists named as finalists for top job at campaign finance panel

Lobbyists named as finalists for top job at campaign finance panel
August 10, 2011 --

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.

2010 public records compliance audit: Closer, still no cigar

2010 public records compliance audit: Closer, still no cigar
November 11, 2010 --

Public officials laughed, snarled and stalled when asked to release documents under the Georgia Open Records Act, a new audit has found. Overall, the 2010 Georgia Student Sunshine Audit reports that public institutions did a better job this year handling requests for public records. Still, one in five university students were denied access to documents that clearly should be public, the audit reported. The most frequent withholders of records, the students said, were … universities.

Ethics Commission gains a member, loses 2 others

Ethics Commission gains a member, loses 2 others
August 27, 2010 --

Bill Jordan and Kent Alexander are out and Kevin Abernethy is in as a member of the State Ethics Commission. Abernethy, a former legislative aide in the Georgia Senate, was named as that chamber’s replacement for Jordan, whose term had expired. Alexander, a former U.S. attorney, announced last week that he would step down Sept. 7 after less than a year.

Three lawyers named as finalists for top ethics job

February 2, 2010 --

Three lawyers — including one who used to prosecute other lawyers for ethics breaches — are finalists for the top job at the State Ethics Commission. They are Gene Chapman, 52, former discipline counsel for the State Bar of Georgia; Bryce Farbstein, 37, who manages the Judicial Election Reform Campaign for Common Cause of Georgia; and Stacey Kalberman, a specialist in insurance regulatory law.

State ethics watchdog wants more applicants for top job

State ethics watchdog wants more applicants for top job
October 21, 2009 --

The State Ethics Commission voted today to reopen applications for its top administrative job and to interview three finalists at its Dec. 16 meeting. The commission interviewed three candidates last week but decided to solicit more applicants for the post. “We uniformly thought they were of very high quality,” commission member William Jordan said, “but there were none right now that we were ready to extend an offer to.”

State Ethics Commission names 3 finalists for top job

October 6, 2009 --

The State Ethics Commission has named three finalists for its top administrative job: Cassandra Lawson, employee relations manager with the state Department of Juvenile Justice; John Truslow, associate director for the Center for Ethics and Corporate Responsibility at Georgia State University’s business school; and David Von, executive vice president of HomeCoast Capital LLC. Read the news release …

University execs’ deferred pay, often hidden, tops $7 million

University execs' deferred pay, often hidden, tops $7 million
October 5, 2009 --

When Wayne Clough left Georgia Tech last year, he drove off  with $1.8 million in deferred pay, behind the wheel of a 2007 Lexus hybrid SUV given to him by the school’s foundation. Carl Patton and Michael Adams have received similarly sweet deals. All told, 10 University System executives have pocketed or accrued more than $7 million since 2004 in deferred pay. Officials say furloughs will not affect the amounts.

How did your legislator spend summer vacation?

How did your legislator spend summer vacation?
August 19, 2009 --

A four-day jaunt to sunny Southern California. Braves games, concerts, golf and charter boat excursions. Weekends at Amelia Island, Sandestin and Biloxi. You and I have to pay for summer diversions like these. But public disclosures show lobbyists treated your Georgia legislators to all this and more, just since May 1. Lobbyists dropped more than $193,000 cozying up to lawmakers in May, June and July, even though legislators went home for the year on April 3.
There was no fun in the sun for the four legislators who flew last month to Pasadena, Cal., said Tom Lewis, lobbyist for Georgia State University. “No golf, no beaches, no nothing else,” he said. “This was pretty much a cut-and-dried educational trip.”

Study: MARTA sales taxes won’t bounce back til 2017

Study: MARTA sales taxes won't bounce back til 2017
August 15, 2009 --

Sales tax collections that support Atlanta’s rapid-transit system will not return to pre-recession levels until 2017, according to a new economic forecast. Georgia State University’s Rajeev Dhawan says sales tax revenue will continue to fall through 2011 and will take six more years to climb back to 2008 levels.