Don Balfour Indicted On 18 Counts

It’s been a long time coming.  Too long.  Jim Galloway breaks the news:

We’ve learned that a grand jury has indicted state Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville, on 18 counts associated with misuse of his legislative expense account.

The official announcement is to come in the next few minutes.

Gov. Nathan Deal is expected to name a three-member panel to recommend whether or not Balfour, once the all-powerful Senate Rules Committee chairman, should be immediately suspended.

Some might think those of us that have pursued this story will look at this as a happy day.  It is not.  It took too much effort from too many people over too long of a time just to get to this point.  Of course, he’s innocent until proven guilty.  Let’s get on to officially proving that as soon as possible please.

Updated: Here’s a press release from Sam Olens, and a copy of the indictment:

 

Fulton County Grand Jury Indicts State Senator

 

On Tuesday, September 24, 2013, a Fulton County Grand Jury charged Donald K. Balfour, II, with 16 counts of Making a False Certificate (O.C.G.A. § 28-1-8), one count of Theft by Taking (O.C.G.A. § 16-8-1) and one count of False Statement and Writing (O.C.G.A. § 16-10-20). A certified copy of the indictment was received from Fulton County Superior Court this morning.

These charges stem from Balfour’s submission of Georgia General Assembly expense vouchers indicating that he was entitled to reimbursement for mileage and per diem expenses to which, it is alleged, he was not entitled.

Making a False Certificate is punishable by one to five years imprisonment and/or up to a $1000 fine, Theft by Taking is punishable by one to ten years imprisonment and False Statement and Writing is punishable by one to five years imprisonment and/or up to a $1000 fine.

Assistant Attorney General Laura Pfister and Senior Assistant Attorney General David McLaughlin are prosecuting the case on behalf of the State of Georgia. The case was investigated by Special Agent Wesley Horne and Forensic Auditor Laquintus Perry of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The indictment is attached.

67 comments

  1. ricstewart says:

    Slightly off subject, but speaking of indicted public officials and three-person panels, did Governor Deal ever appoint the panel for Bulloch County Clerk of Court Teresa Tucker? She’s taken a voluntary suspension, but I haven’t heard any more about the panel.

  2. Nixonstheone says:

    Ric – The panel is only appointed if the official does not take a voluntary suspension, to recommend if it should be done involuntarily.

  3. benevolus says:

    Hate to see it really. Very sad.
    There was one day, one moment, when I guess he made some decision, and it looks like it’s going to change the course of his life.

      • Noway says:

        Wow! Well, I’m glad to see I have, let’s see, an Assistant Attorney General, a Senior Assistant Attorney General and a GBI Special Agent and a GBI Auditor, thrown in for good measure!!!
        I’m glad to see all of that brain power on the case of $2,700 in falsified vouchers. I know I’m sleeping better as well as many other REAL criminals in this state! What an absolute waste of State’s resources!!

        • While I kind of see your point, we’re not talking about a backbencher black caucus member here. This guy is an executive at Waffle House and one of the most powerful people in the Senate who helps to oversee a $19 billion budget. Whether it’s $2,700 or $270,000, what he is alleged to have done is theft, serious, and deserves punishment.

  4. xdog says:

    Much surprise here. I thought an indictment was as unlikely as a substantive ruling by the Ethics Commission. The only question now is whether he pleas out and fades away or digs in for the long haul. It’s hard to see anyone other than his lawyers returning his calls now so I believe he’ll be retiring very soon.

  5. saltycracker says:

    It is game time, it’s 18-0, but it is early in the game.
    Meanwhile let’s watch his teammates, defend or scatter.
    Most will probably stay neutral as it might end up just a misunderstanding with a few checks to write or a retirement party to plan.
    Get the popcorn ready.

  6. Dave Bearse says:

    I figure the evidence available to the Grand Jury was similar to that available to Senator colleague, many of which are attorneys, except that the Grand Jury was likely presented more instances of alleged fraud.

    If that’s the case and Balfour is found guilty of criminal charges, Balfour’s colleagues (most of ’em anyway, I know McKoon and presumably others objected) thought a fine and demotion to Chairman of an inactive committee was punishment enough for stealing public money.

    It indeed will be sad if Balfour is found guilty and is sentenced to any jail time for chiseling. But jail time happens to hungry folks stealing a pack of hot dogs from Kroger too.

    Note that if Crawford Lewis would have had to swear that the gas he purchased on a DeKalb County Schools credit card was only for his DeKalb Schools car, Lewis could be facing the same type charges. (Has anyone here over the course of their lifetime purchased three tanks of gas in the same locale for the same car in one day? Lewis did it twice.)

  7. PegM says:

    I think this is ver ysad. It sounds like a personal vendetta to bring someone to his knees over what seems trivial. I can see these accounting errors are just that…..errors.

    • Noway says:

      +1000
      To put these types of resources on a case like this is absurd. With all of the absolute rampant big-time fraud and waste out there, this is lunacy. He must have pissed off somebody really, really bad. Could someone from the finance office have called him and said there might have been some “errors” on his vouchers and “please take a look” and resubmit? They might have done so but sheesh this is absolutely nuts!!

      • Dave Bearse says:

        The accounting office? You’re kidding, right?

        It was Balfour’s responsibility as Rules Committee Chairman to set up and oversee the “accounting office”. He never bothered to set one up, and he’s a victim of his own oversight.

    • Noway says:

      But, I guess I’m not really surprised. Human behavior is vicious and sickening more often than we realize. Hell, Spiro Agnew got booted out of the Vice Presidency for failure to pay taxes on 13k worth of income. Was the behavior on Balfour’s part intentional? Who knows? Maybe? Probably? For those in the know, what was it about Balfour that made him more of a political target than some of his other fellow senators? Was he angling for higher office next cycle? What?

      • Dave Bearse says:

        Target of his fellow Senators? Again, you’re kidding, right?

        It was the media that brought this to attention.

        It appears his fellow Senators had no concerns that Balfour wasn’t fulfilling is responsibility to set up an oversight system. His fellow Senators had nothing to do with the charges, and collectively did as little as they had to.

      • George Chidi says:

        When Joe Criminal knocks over a liquor store and steals $2700, that fellow goes to jail, probably for a couple of years. The idea that something less significant should happen to Balfour because he’s a public servant and had his hand in the till shouldn’t matter.

        It’s this kind of equivocation and excuse-making that lets Wall Streeters and corporate finance weasels steal millions with nary a slap on the wrist while we spend millions more on patrol cars and street cops looking for someone with a dime bag of weed on a south Atlanta street corner.

        Spare me. As long as folks like Balfour will beat the law-and-order drum to their own benefit, they better be ready to reap what they sew.

        • Noway says:

          Comparing Balfour to an armed robber are we George? (eye roll…)
          “Spare me…”
          And like Peg mentioned, a mistake or error or whatever this is, the person would normally be given a chance to “correct” the documents before the full force of Georgia law enforcement is brought down upon them..
          No, this is a political hatchet job, a very successful one, but a hatchet job nonetheless.
          My original question from Friday remains unanswered: Who did this guy piss off?

          • George Chidi says:

            I certainly am. Purposefully so. What argument can you make that says stealing X amount of money one way should be punished lightly while stealing X amount of money another way should not? Is the nebulous, difficult-to-quantify quality of “social disorder” created by a robbery or a burglary somehow less damaging than the erosion of trust in public officials created by an act of governmental misconduct?

            Frankly, there’s a strong moral argument to make that Balfour should face greater personal consequences than a street thief, not less. He damaged the state, and did so from a position of public trust. A common criminal doesn’t act under color of law.

            Some examples: Jana Chambers, sentenced to 12 months of probation for theft by taking of about $600 in the Georgia Tech P-Card abuse scandal. Tara Crystal Anderson, sentenced to a year in prison and 9 on parole for cashing a state check for $2500 for fraudulent services. A theft charge from the state over $2500 typically results in a year in prison.

            Who cares that he’s relatively rich? That makes this a worse crime, not a greater one!

            • Noway says:

              Good for you, George. You go ahead and double down on your comparison. Let’s see, a violent crime of “knocking over a liquor store” versus the non-violent crime of voucher fraud. Of course, they’re identical. Keep on posting, please!

    • Dave Bearse says:

      Sad yes. Trivial no.

      He’s charged with a program of stealing since 2007, not accounting “errors”. (The stealing may predate 2007 as statute of limitations may apply.)

      People, other than senior executives, are fired for stealing thousands in the private sector. His Senate colleagues lacked backbone. That leaves criminal charges the people’s recourse.

    • PegM, imagine that at your job, a vendor picked you up and took you to lunch. When you got back from lunch, you put an expense report in for the miles and the meal even though they drove and they paid. Wouldn’t you get fired if you did that and your work figured it out?

      Why should the amount matter when someone is stealing? I agree that the punishment should be based on the scale, but there has to be a punishment, and if he’s found guilty, he must be removed from office.

      • Toxic Avenger says:

        Breaking the law is breaking the law is breaking the law. There’s no two ways about it. And while I totally understand that $2,700 isn’t exactly grand theft, it’s still theft.

        We entrust our elected officials to be stewards of our votes, and extensions of ourselves in deliberative bodies. To that end, we need to trust them that, at bare minimum, they will act in an ethical manner and will make their decisions similarly.

        When people like Don Balfour act unethically, it throws a wrench in the whole process. I’m glad to see charges being brought.

  8. PegM says:

    I have had jobs where I traveled extensively and had to fill out the requisite voucher. Unless I kept absolutely meticulous notes over say a month period of four or five out of town and local trips, I could certainly make mistakes. And if the reviewer of my voucher (my immediate boss and accounting) found something amiss, they did not automatically accuse me of cheating, but gave me the chance to correct if need be.

    But if a boss were out to get me, it would not take too much to accumulate a slip here and a slip there, to add up to $2700, and throw me to the wolves.

    I have known Don for years and years. I can’t imagine him being so petty as to “steal” a few miserly bucks from the state, when he is as well off as he is. I’ve also known him to be a man of character, and small time theft is not in his wheel house.

    • George Chidi says:

      Well, the evidence is what it is. Never mind that if you can find excuses in your heart for him that I might question your judgment — perhaps you should question your own judgment.

      Seriously. I mean it.

      Perceptual bias. People allow their identification with a person to change the way they look at other things about that person. In group-out group biases and the pernicious effect of influence is real. Skepticism. Cultivate it.

    • John Konop says:

      Peg,

      I have no dog in this fight, never met nor know much about Don. As someone like you who has traveled a lot during my carrier, I agree with you. Not saying he did not make a mistake, but 2700 dollars of mistakes relative to all his traveling is really low. In the real world this would not be a big issue for someone that traveled at that volume level. HR would point out the error, tell them to correct it, and only do something if it was a material amount of mistakes…….I have screwed up and paid expenses I forgot about..,..When you are multi-tasking going a 100 miles an hour dealing with tons of issues……try walking in his shoes……

      • saltycracker says:

        I believe in walking a mile in the other’s shoes – then you are a mile away from the SOB and you have his shoes.

      • But it’s not an honest mistake! It’s not like he went to Red Lobster and said my bill was $30 but it was actually $20. He went to Red Lobster, someone else picked up the tab, and he still billed the state! It isn’t scriviners errors, it is fraud!

  9. saltycracker says:

    Wow – he is a habitual policy offender – in the real world he would have been escorted out of the building long ago – what the real world probably would not do is press charges…..in the political world of some habitually unethical surrounded by their minion excusers, filing charges is about all that is left….

    • John Konop says:

      Define habitual? In the QC world we define it as a percentage of mistakes. I would bet his mistake level is under 2 percent of transactions if not lower. Would you really call that habitual? Also if he was really playing games why only 2700 dollars? This guy is an executive 2700 dollars relative to his expense account is not much.

      • saltycracker says:

        Repeated issues on legislative expenses – he is no rookie, in a responsible position, has reimbursed $$$, the infractions do not have “but no more than” provisions.

        My company loved customer junkets if they were ok with the clients company, we went to primo places in the world but if one of our guys, after warning, pulled a slick one for $50 in thousands, fired, or we could count on it being acceptable misbehavior with others.

        EVERY organization has boundaries and the debate is not does somebody else like it but does the personnel know where they are.

        I fired some consultants one time after telling them we would only reimburse coach and they went first class, billing me. I cancelled their contract, refused to pay but later settled for cents on the dollars.
        No more problems.

        • John Konop says:

          I would of been more focused on if the consultant made me money or not. My mentor taught me irreverent what you pay someone, bottom line are you making the proper ROI is the real question.

          • saltycracker says:

            You can’t be serious, disregard for expense policies are not usually part of an agreed or implied compensation package.

            Got that logic from an exec years ago when I had put a manager on probation for multiple (documented) irregularities and he cornered me that the manager was one of our most profitable and if was getting kickbacks from suppliers, so what.

            Rule one – don’t bite the hand that feeds you – we eliminated both the low lifes.

            • John Konop says:

              Salty,

              I was taught the teeter-totter approach to management from my mentors. If the person is making you money figure out a way to work with them within reason. If a person is costing you money via lack of productivity get rid of them. Remember employees/contractors…..can cost you money, via bad decisions, lack of production……..it is all about the bottom line in business within ethical boundaries.

              • saltycracker says:

                Ethics usually relate to rules, laws and established customs. Business (ethically speaking) is NOT just about the bottom line.

                It is the kind of thinking you profess that delivered the financial meltdown.

  10. Noway says:

    For the legal eagles here: How many man hours did it take to bring all of this to bear?
    Add up the hours for the Assistant AG, the Senior Assistant AG, Mr. GBI Special Agent, Ms. Auditor (and, and, and their expense/travel vouchers, too) and the clerical staff who had to prepare all of this. Feel free to throw in anyone who I am not thinking about at the moment, too, and give me a figure. I’m curious…

  11. greencracker says:

    What if it wasn’t a state Senator?
    What if it was a low-profile, low-paid state employee who travels? An investigator? Or some admin who has to organize their agency’s town halls or board meetings in different parts of the state?

    I think the detection, accusation, investigation would roll very differently. And the outcome too, perhaps?


    And in a private company, what if it was $2700 theft by the CEO vs. $2700 theft by a warehouse worker? I think only one of those two would be fired and escorted out.

    • John Konop says:

      In the companies I have been involved in, it would depend on multiple factors……First, I would investigate if it was a material amount relative to the amount of travel, expenses…..Second, do I really think the person was gaming the system or just made some mistakes. And if I thought the above 2 were at a low threshold I would just give the employee a warning.

      • Ed says:

        1) You are really barking up the wrong tree with this one, dude. No, I won’t explain why because it already has been.
        2) There aren’t many times where you can have several thousand dollars of “mistakes” and get off with a warning.
        3) Seriously, you need to find a new angle for this because your’s just doesn’t carry water.

  12. debbie0040 says:

    Is anyone suggesting that Sen. Balfour deserves special preferential treatment different from what the people below received ? I don’t believe they were given a chance to correct their “mistake”.

    I would check out Complaint 6. My understanding is that Sen. Balfour is accused of basically “double dipping”. He submitted an expense to both his employer – Waffle House and to the State of Georgia for reimbursement. Did he forget he had submitted it to both? Do both forms look the same and the same process is followed and he just made an honest mistake?

    Take a look at Complaint 14. It basically alleges that Sen. Balfour created a “fake” Rules Committee Roster Meeting Report and submitted it for documentation in order to get per diem / mileage. Was that a “mistake”, too?

    Sam Olens did the right thing and we should all thank him .

    http://law.ga.gov/press-releases/1999-12-21/former-state-senator-ralph-david-abernathy-iii-convicted-fulton-county

    “These charges involved submitting false expense reimbursement requests to the Georgia General Assembly, forging documents to substantiate the expenses, and subsequently receiving reimbursement money from the state of Georgia.”

    http://law.ga.gov/press-releases/2012-07-23/former-ksu-dean-education-college-receives-felony-conviction

    In this case, the Dean was taking students on a field trip and the extra money was given to the students to help with their expenses . He benefited nothing.

  13. Noway says:

    So, your point is Debbie, that Balfour broke the law and deserves to be tried and possibly punished by the courts, doesn’t matter that the cost of bringing him to justice (personnel/time) far outweighs the cost/transgression of $2,700.00?

    • Ed says:

      Just FYI dude, there are very few instances where the cost of bringing someone to justice is even close to the “cost” of the transgression.

    • John Konop says:

      Norway,

      A bigger point to me is the inflating the issue……We live in a society that if a athlete gets busted for a minor violation we call him or her criminal in the same manner as what Hernadez of the Patriots did. This guy screwed up on a couple thousand dollars on an expense report, he is not Bernie Maddoff.

      • saltycracker says:

        Madoff should be in jail. Balfour should be suspended from duties with public monies and if convicted, barred from public office. He won’t go, so what’s left ? The courts. Our legislators permit those who have outstanding unpaid taxes to hold office, it is insane.

        Hernandez is indicted and a suspect in other murders. If he was an elected official his duties should be suspended until resolved and if convicted he should be barred from politics.

        P.S. In pro sports, no convicted felon should be allowed to play (assuming they are a societal role model).

    • debbie0040 says:

      @Noway, I am saying he should be treated like anyone else. You on the other hand don’t. It is pretty clear that you have some connection with him and find the need to defend him strongly. Sen. Balfour was elected and was in a position of authority and had the public trust. He had much power in regard to legislation that passed. He had the authority to oversee the expense reports of the Senators. He was arrogant with his power and loved flaunting it. He made himself a target by his words and actions.. Atlanta Unfiltered broke the story and it sat for months because people were afraid to do anything about because of Sen. Balfour’s power. People kept waiting thinking surely someone would take action on it and action was finally taken.

      How much money is spent to bring others to justice that violate the law like the Kennesaw State College Professor or Sen. Abernathy? You seem to believe that the cost of the investigation should be commensurate to the actual amount taken. How many people would be walking the streets if that were the case?

      I really believe that Sen. Balfour is a good man that allowed power to cloud his judgement and what happened with the expense reports was an ego trip. He has done many good things but got lost in a power trip.. He can still do great things after he gets through this .

      • Noway says:

        Deb, never met him, don’t know him from Adam’s House Cat. I’m just pointing out a political hit on someone for very little in “damages.”

        • debbie0040 says:

          Maybe the damages were more than monetary….Again, you are equating monetary damages to investigation and prosecution. Please show me where that has been relevant in the past.

          Was it relevant in the cases I pointed out?

      • Noway says:

        Ok, Deb, to follow your idealistic logic, which I totally admire, I assume you can regale us all with stories of your vigorous defense of Ken Starr’s prosecutorial efforts against Bill Clinton’s perjury and obstruction of justice charges? I mean, money is/was no object, right?

  14. Newtonian says:

    We are talking punishment PRIOR to a verdict. He has been indicted. The ball is in his court (or his attorneys) and then we can decide if punishment was appropriate. The man has not had his day in court. Having known Don for a number of years, I still find it hard to understand any need to pick up a couple of grand, given his regular compensation at WH. It wasn’t as though he was concerned about keeping his lights on. Sloppy paperwork – yes. It’s just the rest of it that is hard to understand.

    • saltycracker says:

      Doubtful that it was about the money or about sloppy paperwork and not hard to understand, it is about personalities that believe they are above the rules they agreed to play by and expect others to play by.

      Legislators under indictment should be suspended from duties until the matter is settled.

    • debbie0040 says:

      Newtonian, Please actually take the time to read the complaints. You don’t mistakenly create a fake Rules Committee roster Meeting report to submit with your perdiem/mileage claim. Can you give possible scenarios where that would be sloppy accounting or accidental?

      Also, what about the fact he submitted an expense both to Waffle House and to the state of Georgia for reimbursement? How can that be accidental?

  15. Lea Thrace says:

    Just gonna leave these little linkies here:

    http://law.ga.gov/press-releases/1999-12-21/former-state-senator-ralph-david-abernathy-iii-convicted-fulton-county

    http://onlineathens.com/stories/012900/new_0129000015.shtml

    5700 (Abernathy) is not that much larger than 2700 (Balfour). The cases are so similar it’s scary. Even down to the friends and family who claim it’s not a big deal/not a lot of money. Claims that prosecution wouldnt be happening if it wasnt for the name.

    Sauce for the goose and all that…

  16. Napoleon says:

    There is not accusation Balfour forged receipts for reimbursements like RDA III did (4 counts). Nor has Balfour been charged with trying to influence a witness like RDA III did (1 count). Comparing Balfour with RDA III is like comparing apples and bowling balls. RDA III was indicted on 35 felony counts. Balfour has been indicted on half that.

    That’s not to say that corruption at any level of government or politics should be waved away or easily dismissed, but these cases are certainly NOT similar.

    • debbie0040 says:

      @Napolean, please check out complaint 14. It alleges Sen. Balfour created a false document that he submitted in order to receive per diem

  17. Herb says:

    And Balfour is, wait for it, a REPUBLICAN! Just like Tom DeLay, Bob Ney, Duke Cunningham, Jim Gibbons, and multitudes of others. You see a pattern here? And forget about a Squeal investigation into this. He will protect his Republican friend like he’s done all the others under that golden dome.

    • debbie0040 says:

      @Herb, Other Republicans pushed something be done about Sen. Balfour and were the ones in the forefront about it.. It wasn’t the Democrats pushing this.

  18. Noway says:

    Was wondering when ole Herb would come out with his Republican meanies! You’re a hoot! Ok, Herb, I’ll play. How ’bout Demo crooks like Jesse Jackson, Jr. and William “Frigidaire” Jefferson? Or James Traficant? Your turn!

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