State Senate Ethics Committee Comes To Decision

The Senate Ethics Committee has decided to settle with Senator Don Balfour concerning the multiple ethics complaints against him.  He will pay a $5000 fine and reimburse the state $350 according to the AJC.  From Senator Josh McKoon’s Facebook page:

Statement Regarding Senate Ethics Committee Action Today:

Today the Senate Ethics Committee entered into a settlement with Sen. Don Balfour regarding the multiple ethics complaints which had been filed regarding the alleged abuse of per diem policy to include the filing of false reports and the failure to convene an Audit Subcommittee of the Senate Rules Committee in order to comply with Georgia law.

The Ethics Committee found that Sen. Balfour did fail to follow the per diem policy, filed false reports and failed in his responsibility to convene an Audit Subcommittee as required by Georgia law.

While I strongly agree with the Committee’s determination of guilt, I disagree with the penalty, which will not deter future serious breaches of Georgia law and is not as strong as penalties imposed when similar offenses have been committed in the past.

I will be preparing a minority report in the days to come which I will forward on to appropriate parties for consideration which will address these matters in much greater detail. Suffice it to say that the action taken today, in my opinion, further undermines public confidence in state government and reinforces the anything goes culture at the Capitol.

So, it sounds like Sen. Balfour got away with a slap on the wrist from the Senate Ethics Committee.  It’s now up to his peers to determine his role in the Senate…including his future as Rules Chairman.

60 comments

    • CobbGOPer says:

      Based on how the State whatever the hell it’s called now Ethics commission ruled on Deal’s cases, I would assume he can certainly pay for this out of his campaign funds.

      • CobbGOPer says:

        😉 Hey, if Deal can use campaign funds to pay for his expenses defending himself against his congressional ethics investigation, why can’t Balfour use campaign funds to pay his ethics fines? At this point there doesn’t seem to be a line to cross, unless the General Assembly grows a pair and writes law to address it.

        • Stefan says:

          Well, I don’t have the board’s decision in front of me, and I cannot seem to download it, but my recollection was that the complaint failed because the board was concerned that it lacked jurisdiction and/or authority to rule on whether a violation of Georgia Ethics Law had occurred, in that the reading of the law in question was read narrowly to exclude the federal/state issues here.

          Balfour, it would seem, wouldn’t fall into that category, but frankly, I have not read the actual decision because the ethics website will not allow me to read it.

          • Dave Bearse says:

            Isn’t the standard “reasonable and necessary?” It’s unreasonable to be required to pay $5k out of pocket to serve, and in Balfour’s case it’s necessary he pay to continue to serve. Case closed.

  1. Calypso says:

    In two years his quote will be, “I’ve been doing this for 22 years and they still keep re-electing me.”

  2. CobbGOPer says:

    So FYI, below are the Senators (minus Josh McKoon) on the Committee at whom you should direct your angry letters and phone calls:

    Crosby, John – Chairman

    Hooks, George – Vice Chairman

    Butler, Gloria S. – Secretary

    Albers, John – Member

    Carter, Buddy – Member

    Chance, Ronnie – Member

    Davis, Hardie – Member

    Hamrick, Bill – Member

    Jackson, Lester G. – Member

    Jackson, Bill – Member

    Ligon, Jr., William T. – Member

    Murphy, Jack – Member

  3. xdog says:

    This gives credence to Ralston’s statement of the other day. If you’re gonna pass some ethics legislation, it makes sense to clear the backlog first.

    I’m starting to believe something might actually happen. Not that there won’t remain a bunch of hand-out self-serving slugs, but still.

  4. Charlie says:

    A lot of moving parts here. I’m just going to focus on taking in the multiple data points I’m receiving and then weigh in later. Some is good, some is bad, but at the end of the day there are still too many in the positions of power that seek to retain the status quo as I see it coming together at the moment.

  5. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    The draconian punishments handed down today to Senator Don Balfour will undoubtedly serve as a strong and effective deterrent to any other legislator who may be thinking of running afoul of the strict ethical parameters set before them as members of Georgia state government.

    There are no doubts that Senator Balfour and the Georgia Legislature have learned a very hard lesson about the value of ethical purity when excuting their legislative duties on behalf of the people of the great State of Georgia as the issue of ethics in Georgia government has now been effectively and comprehensively addressed through the actions today against the good Senator from Snellville whose small ethical mistakes have been satisfactorily corrected by his peers who undoubtedly hold nothing but the highest standards for ethics, honesty, integrity, achievement and excellence when it comes to governing.

  6. Bob Loblaw says:

    So let me get this straight–the Committee enters into agreement with a Member on an Ethics matter. The Committee votes 12-1 to accept it. Democrats, with an excellent opportunity to score political points by voting against anything agree to the settlement. Every Republican except one agrees. The Chairman is a former Judge with great respect. And this is wrong?

    I guess a pound of flesh is going for more than $5,000 these days.

    • CobbGOPer says:

      First of all, we don’t know that the vote was 12-1, at this point we only know that one Senator, Josh McKoon, has publicly stated that he didn’t think the punishment was severe enough.

      And most people here agree. That so many of these other Senators do not agree is where there is a disconnect.

      If I’m wrong and the vote WAS 12-1, it only indicates that these Senators have no conception – still – of public sentiment on this kind of behavior by public officials. And they should be ready to be publicly called out on their reasoning. So far only Senator McKoon has had the intestinal fortitude to publicly state his feelings on the ruling.

  7. oldman45 says:

    Nothing will change in the Senate. He knows too much on the leadership for them to mess with him. They know he is just crazy enough to take them all down with him.

  8. debbie0040 says:

    It ain’t over yet.
    I filed the initial complaint and was not even notified they were having a meeting.
    The meeting was conducted in secret behind closed doors and a back room deal was cut.
    The Senate is a good ole boy network that covers up for their own.
    Some Senators were tone deaf the message voters sent July 31st.
    Sen. Balfour lied when he said he did not know until February of 2012 he was required to file an audit committee. He was quoted in the AJC on April 13, 2010 that he acted alone as a sub committee over seeing expense reports. The evidence about this was in the supplemental complaint I filed but the Senators chose to ignore the proof.
    The whole investigation thing was just smoke and mirrors. They never intended to do anything.
    The committee members deserved to be primaried. All of our focus this year was on defeating T-SPLOST. We showed what we could do with little money and a lot of determination and focus. Our focus in 2014 will be defeating some incumbents in the Legislature.

    Stay tuned to Monday…

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      How much is the pound of flesh worth, Debbie? One Senator wasn’t tone deaf to the message his district sent…

      • Happy Face says:

        I’ve got about twenty pounds of flesh free to anyone with a liposuction machine. BBQ season was hard on my belly this year!

      • debbie0040 says:

        Bob, this is not about a pound of flesh. There should have been a public hearing and no backroom deal cut in secret behind closed doors. The Democrats are going to make that an issue.

        Josh McKoon was the only one on that committee that was not afraid of Sen. Balfour and stood up against un-ethical conduct. The rest rubber stamped it.

        Sen. Balfour should have been made to resign his Rules Chairmanship.

        Instincts tell me that the hearing yesterday was not about justice, but about how they can help Sen. Balfour out of this mess now that the primaries are over. The people sent a strong message July 31st. It is unfortunate that some Senators are tone deaf to it and have continued on the same course.

        • Bob Loblaw says:

          Since it’s back to school time, Debbie, this is the perfect opportunity to school you once more on the policies of your government.

          Ethics Committees in both Chambers have rules that allow meetings to be in executive session when certain matters are discussed of a sensitive nature. Why? So people like you, who use doubletalk and have an agenda to slam the accused will not influence a decision that could literally destroy one’s chance of maintaining office.

          It was similar with the tax scofflaws a few years ago. When a Member comes before a bipartisan Ethics Committee, there’s a solemnity to the proceedings that transcends politics. You don’t care because as CCFRG points out, below, you play favorites and apply political pressure to those you choose not to support.

          The Ethics Committee has found fault, issued an order, fined the accused and the matter is closed in as much as the legislative body has Constitutional authority to act.

          So Debbie, it IS about a pound of flesh with you. Either that or we’ll be waiting on the Complaint you sign against the Senator(s) CCFRG references below to prove everyone wrong.

          You really need a crash course in government. You’ve figured out enough about politics for those lazy reporters at the AJC to call you when they need a red-meat quote from whichever of the 180 TEA parties you “lead”. Do they have remedial American government classes anywhere near you? Maybe you could take on online? An Ethics Committee meeting in Executive Session is not a “back room deal” no matter how much your know-nothing hack buddies want to make it so.

          • yellowhammer says:

            + 1000. I think most of these tea party folks are good people with genuine views, but their fundamental misunderstanding of how government operates and blind-eye favoritism prevents many from being sympathetic to their cause, even if we agree with many of their views. Did Balfour screw up? Yep. Should he have been fined? Yep. Having already been demonized and constantly accosted by the TP/Ethics crowd, should he subject to being tarred, feathered, and paraded around the town square? No. He’s been punished and more importantly, he’s been overwhelmingly re-elected by his constituents, who soundly reject his TP opponent. Democracy in action. Move on.

            • debbie0040 says:

              He failed in his assigned duties as Rules Chairman to create an Audit Sub-committee, he falsified numerous expense reports and he should be removed as Rules Chairman. If he worked for a private company, he would have been fired.

              The tea party was focused on defeating T-SPLOST and did not concentrate on defeating Balfour. neither candidate was well known and did not have money to send mail pieces. They forced Sen. Balfour to use a great deal of his campaign money. That will not be the case in 2014.We had may successes though besides T-SPLOST. Regina Quick beat McKillip, Cecil Staton and Jack Murphy coming within a hair of getting defeated by tea party backed candidates that were outspent 30-1. As I have said, we will have money in 2014 and focus..

              • yellowhammer says:

                The Tea Party did a pretty good job against the TSPLOST, although I’d say the best job of defeating the bill was done by the folks trying to pass it. I don’t know how much credit you guys can take for McKillip, since Dems were piling into the GOP primary were piling in to vote against him. Regardless, I’m really not trying to discredit you guys, I just wish y’all would focus more on the positives of your folks, rather than demonize those you oppose. There is enough of that going on already, without threats of primarying someone for only voting with you guys 95% time.

                • CobbGOPer says:

                  There’s a difference between demonizing someone and legitimately pointing out unethical behavior in an elected official. If said official doesn’t appreciate having their bad behavior publicized and criticized, then they should rethink how they comport themselves in the General Assembly. Or rethink their decision to run for office.

              • Bob Loblaw says:

                The Tea Party was not focused on beating Balfour? Are you saying that the TEA Party “Leader” that ran against him, that you stepped aside for, wasn’t a “focus”? You’re touting your wins and spinning off your defeats.

                3,200 voters in the portion of Clarke County in that district pulled a GOP ballot on that election day. 1,900 pulled a GOP ballot countywide for the Presidential Preference primary. The Democrats beat McKillip. You want to take credit? Please.

          • John Konop says:

            Bob,

            Your comments are always well thought-out if I agree or not with you. Do you think Jack Murphy should be in charge or even on any committee dealing with banks why or why not?

            • Bob Loblaw says:

              I don’t know. Would an elected official who was responsible for an auto accident that killed someone be a bad choice to Chair Public Safety? I know that besides Sen. Murphy, a lot of other bankers, including the Nation’s largest, had their portfolios tilted too far in the direction of residential real estate. If every banker that made those bad choices was prohibited from banking and banking policy, I’m not sure who would be left to pick up the pieces.

              • Charlie says:

                A lot of us, myself included, lost about everything we had during the housing collapse.

                But how many were charged with ‘gross negligence’ and ‘breach of fiduciary duty’?

                And how many of those are chairing the commitee on banking?

                Note that we’ve never called for him to resign as Senator over this, or even be removed from the committee. But chairing the committee with pending charges or gross negligence and breach of fiduciarty duty? Really?

          • debbie0040 says:

            I don’t need to go back to school and I know more about what really goes behind closed doors than you could ever imagine. So you can just stop with your arrogant elitist attitude.. Speaking of needing to be schooled, want me to school you on how not to run a PR campaign for a referendum that advocates the largest increase in Georgia history?

            It weas a back room deal cut behind closed doors. They even had state troopers guarding the door.

            Your comments made my point that the Senate Ethics Committee is not about holding Senators accountable for their actions it is about protecting the Senators.

            • Bob Loblaw says:

              I don’t care to imagine how much you know about what goes on behind closed doors.

              Again, you do need to go back and re-learn government. In camera hearings are appropriate at certain times. I hate it for you that your pound of flesh is worth more than five large, but that was the ruling.

              The argument that the Ethics Committee, which is bi-partisan and RIPE for political attack against one of Georgia’s leading Republicans, was “protecting” Senators over the opportunity to score a huge political point reveals a lack of understanding of partisan politics. Sen. Henson and the rest of the Senate Dems would have pounced on Sen. Balfour, the Republicans, the Lt. Governor–everyone, if the Committee hearings were anything but on the up and up and included their input along the way.

              And you’ve already been congratulated for your success on T-SPLOST. By the way, where’s that lawsuit you promised on the constitutionality of the regional tax you promised? Is that more doubletalk? That and now you’re going to Paul Howard to sue Sen. Balfour? You’re starting to sound like that person that always is threatening to sue him or sue her and never does a thing.

              • debbie0040 says:

                Bob, I never mentioned suing Sen. Balfour and you clearly have a problem uynderstanding that fact. What he did was a criminal act and we believe there should be a CRIMINAL investigation. Let me school you on what the law says in regard to what Sen. Balfour did:

                Section 16-10-20 Falsification in government matters
                A person who knowingly and willfully falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact; makes a false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or makes or uses any false writing or document, knowing the same to contain any false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry, in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of state government or of the government of any county, city, or other political subdivision of this state shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000.00 or by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years, or both.

                • debbie0040 says:

                  Per the lawsuit, we are reaching out to tea parties in regions affected and see if they want us to pursue it.

                  • Bob Loblaw says:

                    Debbie Doubletalk. See if “they” want you to pursue the lawsuit you’ve already promised? The GA Constitution you so unabashedly reference doesn’t just cover those three regions of GA. It covers the whole state. If you think regional taxation is unconstitutional, which you have said time and again that it is, then stop the blah blah blah and file your suit. The suit’s venue wouldn’t lie in those regions anyway. Not that you care about law or anything. File your suit. Start backing up your doubletalk with something besides more of this:
                    http://atlanta.craigslist.org/nat/grd/3144731368.html

  9. debbie0040 says:

    By allowing Sen. Balfour to remain as Rules Chairman, the Committee on Assignments is rubber stamping Sen. Balfour’s unethical conduct. If they leave him as Rules Chairman, they need to be held accountable as well..

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      From the Voters of the 9th Senate District:

      Miss Know-It-All:

      Does our vote not count? How should us, as voters, be held accountable for sending our Senator back to the Capitol?

      Thank you,

      Republican Primary Voters of the 9th District

      • debbie0040 says:

        Most voters do not pay close attention to the news. The local paper ran very few news stories on it and most voters in Gwinnett do not read the AJC.. There were many voters that had never been represented by Sen. Balfour because they were newly drawn in his district. Sen. Balfour sent out 7 mailpieces to voters . The other two candidates did not have the money to notify the public about Balfour’s ethics issues and did not have name recognition.

        We are not asking he resign from being a Senator. We are asking he be removed as Rules Chairman.

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      The Senate Committee on Assignments would actually be in agreement with its Committee on Ethics’ recommendation.

      You ought to call a mason to start replacing your glass house with brick.

  10. polpol says:

    Lets watch very carefully what the Transparency Commission or whatever it is called does with this issue. While the Senate Ethics Commission was treading on new ground with this issue (I don’t think that they actually have to power to fine anyone, and if so who does the money go to, the Senate Republican Trust?? Nor do they have the ability absent enacting legislation to dictate how campaign money may or may not be spent.) the Transparency Commission has a set of guidelines and fines that are stipulated in OCGA. Lets see what kind of backbone they have in dealing with this issue…..On another side, lets see how Ethics reform fares if the good Senator retains his hold on the flow of legislation in the Senate. May we live in interesting times…….

  11. CCFRG says:

    Debbie- if you are going to continue going after Balfour who was stupid with less than 1000 dollars you should also be in Chip Rogers face about his illegal 140k PAC to PAC transfer that paid for 7 pieces of mail, funneled through shady new corporations and non-independent entities.

    Why you haven’t called for his resignation or defeat yet is crazy.

  12. DeKalb Wonkette says:

    Ethics smethics. Out: Lobbyists’ “Meals” In: Lobbyists’ Sponsorships . Apparently if you aren’t a sponsor you won’t get to schmoooze the senators, representatives and others on this commission over lunch. Excerpt from meeting notice, redacted to allow those involved to clean up their act –

    “STATE EDUCATION FINANCE STUDY COMMISSION SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITY
    As you know on August 28th are the meetings with sub committee #1,
    sub committee #2 and then the joint meeting for sub #1 and sub #2.
    There will be three meetings that day: If you would like to sponsor lunch for the commission members and staff, please let me know as soon as you can. My suggestion would be to have
    two groups go in together and split the cost. There will be approximately 25 attendees plus the number of folks from your group. “

      • CobbGOPer says:

        Guess I should try that in the office sometime: “Hey, would anyone like to sponsor my lunch today? We’ll totally talk about your project and I’ll give it serious consideration for higher priority. If you buy me barbecue.”

        • DeKalb Wonkette says:

          CGOPer: It is the first time I have seen this ask in writing but I have heard it issued many times before – ususally by a particular House chairman.

          There is no other way in the world that interested parties can interpet it, especially in a formal committee meeting attended by people who must, by dint of what passes as an Ethics law, be registered as lobbyists: You must pay for our lunch to get heard.

          And unless such a “sponsor” is acting on his or her own behalf with expenditures of $1K or less, the “lunch” would have to be reported as a lobbyist expenditure. Unlikely considering the matter at hand.

    • Calypso says:

      You’re probably also unimpressed with a six-year-old’s lack of ability take only two cookies from the jar when Mom isn’t looking.

  13. bowersville says:

    While laws are necessary, they reflect but do not establish a state’s ethical culture. Neither do fellow politicians. In the end, that has to be the function of voters. Our leaders will rise or fall to meet whatever standards of behavior that we require of them, and clearly, they continue to do so.

    – Jay Bookman

    One more time. In the end, that has to be the function of the voters. Until voters decide what is acceptable or not acceptable by using the ballot box to oust and defeat we have nothing.

  14. jpmsouth says:

    Dear Bob Loblaw – I am neither a republican or a Tea Party person – I’m just one very mad voter that is tired of a wink & nod by the republican party leadership and their platitudes to the Tea Party BEFORE elections. Give me an ethical alternative to the present republicans in the House & Senate and I will vote for them…I don’t care about the party affiliation.

    You are correct about Senate rules allow the Ethics Committee to deliberate in Private. However, the person found wanting for unethical acts [note plurality] is the Chair of the Rules Committee that makes up the Senate Rules, and decides how to apply Rules when referred.

    No one should lose sight that a very partisan Senate Committee found a Chairman did wrongfully submit per diem and pay requests when he was in New Orleans, and Florida being ‘escorted’ by lobbyist. The reason a citizen got involved is the Senate’s watch dog sub committee to find such theft was never setup by the person responsible – Don Balfour. You are welcome to try to deflect attention away from betrayal of my trust by blaming a citizen for doing the Senate’s job. For me it is a serious issue – you are welcome to see it as ok. The issue for us is a Senator heading one of the most powerful Committees in State govt. did wrongly bill the State multiple times, and did not do his job setting up the sub-committee to oversee the Senate expenses that would have found his mis-billing.

    The next step we should be asking ourselves are; What are the names of the Committee on Assignment that made the bad decision to select Don Balfour to be a Chairman, and who selected the Senators serving on the Ethics Committee. We should include those folks in the conversation on choosing better.

    • CobbGOPer says:

      I honestly think Bob should just be ignored. No amount of evidence is going to convince him of the inherent dishonesty of some of these people. Probably because they’re clients.

      What do you call 1000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      The Ethics Committee passes its own rules. The Senate Rules Committee has zero bearing on the contents therein.

      Very partisan Committee? Four Democrats including George Hooks sit on that Committee. Hooks doesn’t put up with sh!t. If there’d of been a rat, he’d of called it out. Again, the Dems would have loved to blow up Balfour.

      Sorry you got outvoted 12-1. Sometimes you’re the Louisville Slugger, sometimes you’re the ball.

        • debbie0040 says:

          In his testimony before the Ethics Committee, he admitted to violating state law. It is all there in the resolution. He may have claimed it was not intentional but do you really think a jury in Fulton County will believe that?

          • Bob Loblaw says:

            I’ll leave such speculation to you and choose not to be prejudicial towards jurors. With regard to your creativity, I’m unamused. The law passed to enact a 6% income tax on Georgians has raised and will continue to raise billions more in tax revenue than the T-SPLOST would. You’re “creativity” in calling it the largest tax increase in GA history is nothing more than doubletalk, which Bob Loblaw does not partake in!

  15. AtticusFinch says:

    This week only, customer/voter appreciation special at the Waffle House courtesy of Don Balfour: “scattered, smothered and covered” hash browns. Free with sweet tea for all those who are having indigestion over all this “ethics” stuff.

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