The legislature has dropped the ethics complaint against Larry O’Neal that Edward Chapman fired off. The reasoning was, according to Eric Johnson,
Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson said the ethics panel had simply followed the law, which he said bans them from considering conduct before Jan. 9, 2006, when the committee was created.
The Common Cause guy, I think somewhat humorously says that this was a *technically correct* action, meaning it was following the law, but he’s not happy. Eric Johnson called the filing “crap” that was nothing more than partisan politics.
Here’s my take:
Eric Johnson is right. It was partisan political crap. But, it was still a legitimate ethics complaint that raises very legitimate ethical issues. It may be crap, but its does have merit.
Nonetheless, Eric Johnson is also wholly right. As Bill Bozarth with Common Cause said:
“Technically it may be correct that they can only address things that happened after January 2006,” Bozarth said. “I don’t see any reason they couldn’t have looked into it if they chose to.”
That, by the way, is just silly. So, they followed the law and Bozarth expresses his disappointment that they followed the law. Folks, this is Roberts Rules 101 — a Committee, without special authorization, cannot continue the work of a duly adjourned legislative body. The General Assembly from 2005 no longer exists. There has been a new election. Not only has there been a new election, but there is a new law for a new committee that authorizes looking back, but only effective from 2006 forward.
Tough —-. Suck it up.
Here’s the problem though.
Had the committee ignored the law, something Common Cause would usually cry foul about, and given a hearing to the matter, they could have said they addressed it and moved on. Now the Democrats are going to be so emboldened that they will keep using this issue going further. The media will now more likely be willing to take the bait.
And thanks to this, coupled with the Democrats previous machinations over Glenn Richardson, we will see Georgia descend into the partisan hackery that we see going on in DC.
This does, however, cut both ways. Bobby Kahn, using drummed up ethics charges against Glenn Richardson to get allegations of adultery on the front page of the AJC, sent out a signal that the Democrats were still in the game. Edward Chapman’s complaint sent the same signal. Wait for the GOP to turn its eye on the Democrats.
If the Democrats are really serious about this issue, they should file a complaint with the United States Attorney. Otherwise, I expect the partisan drum beating to continue and, frankly, the GOP can just ignore it.
The Dems tried to make their case in the election and their candidate’s bankruptcy campaign didn’t have the money or the right candidate to make the case. Now they are going to have to try various alternatives. In the meantime, we’ll see if the Republicans will move forward, or will the House and Senate Dems now pick up the ball for the State Party and walk out until the issue is considered by the Committee — again, not something the committee can actually do.