Complaint against Deal, ethics chair dismissed
By JIM WALLS
State officials, based on an opinion of the attorney general, have dismissed a complaint challenging former chairman Patrick Millsaps’ service on the state Campaign Finance Commission.
Millsaps – reappointed after completing his term by Gov. Nathan Deal last year– headed the commission last spring when it slashed its top administrator’s pay by 30 percent and eliminated her deputy’s job. The timing of those personnel moves – which came just weeks after those employees sought to escalate an investigation of Deal – fueled speculation that Millsaps was asked to derail the inquiry.
Ethics gadfly George Anderson’s July 2011 complaint – one of three he’s filed against Deal — alleged that Millsaps’ appointment was illegal and that any subsequent actions by the commission were therefore invalid. Millsaps could not be reappointed, Anderson argued, because state law limits commission members to a single four-year term.
But a complex 10-page opinion by Deputy Attorney General Dennis Dunn found otherwise. While the law limits members to four years in office, Dunn concluded, Millsaps was named to fill an unexpired term in 2009 and eligible to serve until 2013.
The opinion, issued in November at Deal’s request, was the basis for an administrative dismissal of Anderson’s complaint, said Holly Laberge, the commission’s executive secretary. The agency’s staff may dismiss a case that way rather than take it to a probable cause hearing before the commission.
Anderson was notified of the action in a Feb. 24 letter. He has scribbled a note on the copy attached here.
Millsaps, a Camilla attorney, stepped down in August because of the controversy. He later became chief of staff of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign.
The commission still has open investigations of Deal’s 2010 personal and campaign finance disclosures, based on complaints by Anderson. It also has yet to resolve another complainant’s allegation that Deal used money from his campaign for governor to pay lawyers defending him in a congressional ethics investigation.