If I didn’t know better, I’d be outraged by the allegedly shameful and irresponsible conduct of the Center for Public Integrity, called to our attention Thursday in the AJC. But I do know better, so please allow me to explain how Rick Thompson’s opinion piece ignored CPI’s findings about Georgia’s limp anti-corruption laws while building a straw man that could easily be ripped apart.
Atlanta’s Board of Ethics, which has operated for six months without an ethics officer, will have to make do a bit longer. Stacey Kalberman, the board’s unanimous choice for the job, withdrew Sunday as the City Council pondered whether to choose the ethics officer itself. “I frankly became disheartened when that happened,” Kalberman said.
Georgia Inspector General Deron R. Hicks says his staff found no evidence that his boss, Gov. Nathan Deal, pressed for the firing of the top two investigators at the ethics commission. The question is: How hard did he really look? Hicks’ inquiry did not address important disputed points, including whether the commission’s chairman, after being reappointed by Deal, had truly recused himself from an investigation of the governor’s campaign finances.
The candidate who promises as attorney general to “aggressively raise the bar on ethics reform” is systematically skimping on reports of his own campaign expenditures. Sam Olens, former chairman of the Cobb County Commission, received more than $55,000 in unitemized reimbursements from campaign funds since January 2009, his disclosures show. But Olens’ reports do not reveal the end recipients of the spending, as required by the State Ethics Commission.
Stacey Kalberman, an attorney specializing in insurance regulatory issues, will become Georgia’s top ethics enforcer next month. Kalberman, 45, will replace Rick Thompson, who stepped down as executive secretary of the State Ethics Commission in October.
Former House Speaker Glenn Richardson‘s political fund, enriched last week with nearly $220,000 from a separate campaign account, can legally spend the money almost any way it wishes. “He could spend it on anything he wants to,” said Rick Thompson, former executive secretary of the State Ethics Commission. “If he wanted to pay his rent or buy an automobile through the MMV PAC fund, there’s no restrictions on what he can do … under the Ethics in Government Act.”
Public Service Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald is looking at a possible $24,850 fine for campaign finance violations during his 2002 race against Angela Speir. McDonald failed to report $46,000 in campaign contributions and $76,000 in spending from that race, a state investigator testified today.