Nov. 13, 2013 — Don Balfour was suspended from the Georgia Senate today over expense account discrepancies first reported by Atlanta Unfiltered in February 2012. Our examination of the senator’s 2011 expense account found Balfour had claimed per diem and mileage reimbursements for several days when he was out of state and therefore ineligible for them. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution later dug up similar examples from prior years.
The Senate Ethics Committee order Balfour to pay a $5,000 fine over the discrepancies, and a Fulton County grand jury indicted him in September for 18 counts of making false expense claims. Records show Balfour’s campaign committee last year paid nearly $80,000 in legal fees to defend him in those cases.
July 8, 2013 — Sen. Don Balfour has learned — the hard way — what a difference a year can make. Balfour today reported collecting just $2,000 in political donations for the first six months of 2013, following his demotion to chairing the Senate Reapportionment Committee. For the same period in each of the previous two years, he pulled in $137,000.
Jan. 10, 2013 — The GBI has completed an investigation of state payments to soon-to-be-deposed Senate Rules chairman Don Balfour, but there’s no word yet as to its findings. Attorney General Sam Olens won’t say what the next step might be, if any. Balfour, meanwhile, appears to have retained Andersen, Tate & Carr, a Gwinnett County law firm that is defending ex-Gwinnett Commissioner Kevin Kenerly against bribery charges.
Sept. 19, 2012 — Georgia taxpayers reimbursed Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers this year for $6,688 in expenses that appear to have been paid by his re-election committee. The Legislature also reimbursed him in 2003 and 2005 for $1,471 that his campaign had apparently paid. In each case, Rogers submitted a sworn statement that he had personally incurred those expenses. Senate expense accounts, at least until recently, have not been audited. UPDATE: Chip Rogers has since reimbursed his campaign $8,500 “to avoid even the appearance of impropriety,” even though the expenses were legitimate, his attorney says.
Aug. 20, 2012 — Josh McKoon has called on his Senate colleagues to censure Don Balfour and remove him as chairman of that chamber’s Rules Committee for filing false expense reports.
The Senate Ethics Committee said today there’s “substantial cause” to believe Rules Chairman Don Balfour violated rules for expense reimbursements. The next step: A settlement with Balfour on public meetings that would air the details of the case.
Sen. Don Balfour, conceding he could not have been in two places at once, has returned nearly $800 to Georgia taxpayers. As Atlanta Unfiltered reported in February, Balfour claimed that much in expenses for working on state business in Atlanta on days when lobbyists said they had treated him for meals or entertainment at out-of-town conferences.
State Sen. Don Balfour violated his oath of office and Georgia law by filing false requests for mileage reimbursements, a complaint filed with the Senate Ethics Committee alleges. Balfour in September requested mileage reimbursements for commuting to the state Capitol on several days when lobbyists said they treated him to a meal or entertainment at out-of-town conferences.
Picture a few Georgia legislators in a karaoke bar, swaying back and forth and belting out the Stone’s “Under My Thumb.” Or maybe a little Cee Lo. That should give you a good sense of the message that lawmakers sent last week to the State Campaign Finance Commission. Gov. Nathan Deal has already signed an ethics bill that gives the commission more work and more expenses and rebuffs a bid to restore some of its power.
Georgia lawmakers Monday gave voters less access to information on local candidates’ finances, reversing part of a 2010 reform bill that became law just two months ago. The legislators’ action could also cost the cash-strapped Campaign Finance Commission $130,000 — which it doesn’t have — to notify candidates of possible violations. If the commission can’t afford to send those notices, it can’t enforce the law.
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Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam has racked up $22,381 in liens for unpaid federal and state income taxes for eight consecutive years. The state Revenue Department executed the latest lien Jan. 25, shortly after reporting that a House member had not filed a 2008 tax return, but officials aren’t saying whether it’s her. “I don’t have money,” Abdul-Salaam said. “I struggle like most of my constituents, but I never run from my obligations.”