Augusta lawmaker, facing ethics charges, loses seat
By JIM WALLS
May 25, 2016 — Allegations of mishandling campaign money appear to have cost Rep. Earnest Smith his seat in the Georgia Legislature.
In Tuesday’s Democratic primary, Smith lost his bid for a fifth term in the Georgia House of Representatives, 57% to 43%, to retired postal worker Sheila Clark Nelson.
The state Ethics Commission in December found probable cause that Smith had violated state law in disclosing his personal and campaign finances. An 88-count complaint alleged that Smith had failed to disclose $7,480 in campaign donations and more than $25,000 in spending.
The undisclosed spending included about $19,000 in checks written to cash, commission staff attorney Robert Lane said at a December hearing.
Smith denied wrongdoing.
“Every record will be accounted for,” he told commissioners at the December hearing. “At no time was any monies ever spent for anything other than for campaign initiatives. I can assure you that my integrity is above reproach.”
The commission voted to send the case to Attorney General Sam Olens for possible criminal prosecution, but gave Smith time to submit records that would clear up the matter.
Another hearing on his case is scheduled for the commission’s June 23 meeting.