House leaders found Mike Glanton did not violate ethics rules in 2015 when he appeared to be leveraging his public role as a legislator to generate some private business. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t come close.
Glanton denied any ill intent, and the House Ethics Committee dismissed a complaint against him because Glanton’s employer didn’t wind up benefiting from his actions.
The case prompted Ethics chair Joe Wilkinson, though, to send out a three-page warning to House members: “Linking your legislative service with your private business endeavors will often create an appearance of impropriety or improper conduct whether one is intended by the member or not. … The best rule to follow is to not link your legislative position in any manner with your private business activities.”
Georgia law books are chock-full of statutes written to curtail undue influence on political activity and public policy. So utilities and insurance companies can’t give to a candidate seeking an office that regulates them. Legislators can’t take political donations while in session. Politicians can’t use campaign money for personal benefit. State workers can’t accept gifts from vendors or lobbyists.
Except when they can.
Time and again, Georgia journalists and watchdog groups have found that money finds a way to flow around those laws. These and similar findings underscore what can sometimes be a gaping divide between Georgia’s legal standards for public accountability, on the one hand, and everyday practice. In a new, state-by-state analysis of ethics and accountability practices, Georgia ranks 50th with a grade of F from the State Integrity Investigation.
A coastal Georgia judge whose actions drew national attention now must defend herself against formal charges that she denied a suicidal defendant and others the right to due process and ignored conflicts of interest with her family members. Judge Amanda Williams’ conduct amounted to “tyrannical partiality,” the Judicial Qualifications Commission said today.
Consultant Michael Lovelady leased offices to a contractor while monitoring his installation of new locks at a south Georgia prison. Lovelady named his son’s business as one of three acceptable suppliers for the $638,000 job. Lovelady’s son owned half of the contractor’s company. But prison officials never noticed anything amiss, Inspector General Deron R. Hicks reported Monday.
Two DeKalb County housing officials were cleared Wednesday of ethics charges stemming from their solicitation of political and charitable contributions from a private developer. George Maddox and Dorothy Williams, both board members of the DeKalb Housing Authority, each accepted $2,500 in donations from the developer. The DeKalb Board of Ethics found no evidence that the transactions influenced their official actions.
A powerful Cobb County legislator collected $40,000 last year to do research to help an advocacy group decide the best way to ask the Legislature for money. Rep. Earl Ehrhart and his client, Friends of Arts & Culture, say he did not help to write a bill that would have allowed local votes on arts funding, nor did he help move it through the Legislature. “I never consult on any type of legislation that’s going on here,” he said. Ehrhart did not disclose his client or his fee, which state law does not require. Nor did he disclose the name of his consulting business, which the law does require. This is what passes for transparency in the Georgia Legislature. UPDATE: An ethics complaint regarding this transaction was filed this week with the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee.
The DeKalb County Housing Authority — already beset with questions about gifts of money or services from vendors — may be about to hire another vendor as its next executive director. If Eugene P. “Pete” Walker Jr. becomes DeKalb’s new public housing chief, he will oversee the job performance of his current employer, Mercy Housing Southeast, a non-profit paid to manage several of the authority’s properties. He’s currently Mercy’s president. Walker, one of three finalists for the housing job, also runs Millennium Development Partners, a for-profit company that does financial and bond consulting for the housing authority. Read on…
Twice a year, members of the Cobb County ethics board meet to deal with housekeeping matters. Then they go home. For a time last year, DeKalb’s ethics board couldn’t even muster a quorum. And in Fulton, a state legislator contends the ethics board cannot impose fines or sanctions because its members were appointed improperly. Bottom line: Local ethics boards get no respect.
Jailhouses are rockin‘ in northeast Georgia, as hundreds of defendants awaiting trial are once again guaranteed an attorney if they cannot afford one. The Georgia Public Defender Standards Council this week settled a lawsuit alleging it had abandoned poor defendants in the five-county Northern Judicial Circuit. The judge signing the consent order concluded the state’s indigent-defense system is “fraught with a lack of accountability.”
If House Speaker David Ralston’s ethics bill passes as written, Sen. Don Balfour and friends will have 562,000 reasons to thank him. Balfour, who’s said he won’t seek re-election, started 2010 with that many greenbacks in his campaign account. Georgia politicians such as Balfour would have been severely restricted in spending leftover campaign cash under a bill with broad bipartisan support. Now that proposal is all but dead, swept aside by Ralston’s substitute ethics bill.
Atlanta’s chief operating officer, Peter Aman, must disqualify himself from discussing city business involving Delta Air Lines or any other client of his consulting firm, the city’s Board of Ethics said tonight. But, the board said, he’s fine if he wants to talk to Delta about budget issues or other matters that affect all tenants at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.