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Olens ‘raising the bar on ethics’ — with one notable exception



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, campaign reports show. The total includes $17,000-plus from his county commission campaign account.

Olens’ disclosures describe most reimbursements as being for “travel” or for several types of expenses lumped together, such as “travel, mailings, subscriptions.”

State law requires more detail than Olens is providing, said Stacey Kalberman, executive secretary of the State Ethics Commission.

Candidates have two options for reporting expenditures. Payments may be itemized by listing the end recipient and purpose, such as “$150 to the U.S. Post Office for campaign mailings.”

Alternatively, a campaign may report reimbursements to the candidate or staff member who spent the money. However, the filer must attach an addendum itemizing and identifying the end recipients so an auditor or voter knows where the candidate’s money is actually going.

Olens’ reports include no such addenda or explanations for payments to himself or campaign staffers. Payments to staff members are often vague or lumped together, for example: “hours worked, postage, tickets.”

There’s no way to know what kind of tickets, said Kalberman: “Tickets could be for a concert.”

Bob Morgan, Olens’ campaign treasurer, said the campaign is within the law by reporting each reimbursement check that it doles out. If more detail is requested, he said, he has the records.

As a result of Atlanta Unfiltered’s inquiries, Morgan amended disclosures Wednesday for eight 2009 payments to Olens totaling $13,615 that had been explained only as “reimbursement.” The amendment now describes a July 2009 payment to Olens of $5,116 as “mileage, travel, meetings, supplies.”

“It doesn’t hurt to put in a little more detail,” Morgan conceded. “It didn’t change any of the totals.”

The amended report still provides no information on the end recipients of the payments, however.

Olens has pledged to strengthen the Ethics in Government Act “to preclude even the appearance of impropriety.

“Partial compliance with existing regulations is not good enough.”


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