May 14, 2013 — A federal judge has held former Rep. Sean Jerguson in contempt of court and entered a $640,000 default judgment against him and his partners in a Cedartown mobile home park. U.S. District Judge Marvin Shoob ruled Thursday that Jerguson and Sapphire Pointe LLC were in “flagrant disregard” of the court’s February order compelling them to produce information and documents sought by an Arkansas bank seeking to collect on a loan.
Financial disclosures filed by Senate candidate Sean Jerguson during his six years as a state representative listed ownership interests in several businesses but omitted more than $1 million worth of real estate that they own. Those properties include the site of his Cherokee County shooting range, which it bought from another of his businesses with the help of a federally-guaranteed loan, and a Cedartown mobile home park that is perpetually late paying its property taxes. (Many lawmakers list business properties on their annual disclosures, but others contend the law does not require them to do so. A 1998 attorney general’s opinion held that a candidate must disclose corporately owned real estate “if he has a legally enforceable right to use the land for his own personal enjoyment or profit.”)
When Senate candidate Brandon Beach ran for the Legislature in 2010, he raised $13,600 to be spent on the general election once he’d secured the Republican nomination. He didn’t make it that far, though, losing a close primary runoff. State law requires candidates to refund contributions raised for an election in which they’re not on the ballot. Beach’s campaign kept those donations, spending some and rolling the rest over to a 2012 race. State law may have allowed some of that money to be reallocated after the fact to cover 2010 primary or runoff expenses, but at least $8,400 could not be redesignated since it came from donors who had reached contribution limits for those races.
Twenty-one Georgia legislators accepted gifts valued at $5,000 or more from lobbyists last year. Led by Senate majority leader Chip Rogers, the 21 legislators accounted for 10 percent of the $1.5 million in lobbyist handouts last year. We’re talking gift baskets, food and drink, golf, sports and concert tickets, lodging and airfare. These are the lawmakers who can’t say no.