Governor Nathan Deal today named a panel to determine if indicted State Senator Don Balfour should be allowed to remain in his job. A copy of the Governor’s order can be found here.
Determining Balfour’s fate will be Retired GA Supreme Court Chief Justice George Carley, Current Senate Majority Leader Ronnie Chance, and House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal. Their recommendations are due to the Governor by November 15th.
This comes on the heels of Debbie Dooley wondering publicly why Balfour is still in office and still holding a committee chairmanship. Dooley, co-founder of Georgia’s Tea Party Patriots, was one of the individuals that filed an ethics complaint against Balfour that ultimately resulted in the indictment.
Talk at the Capitol is that Balfour has retained Ken Hodges as his new defense attorney. Correct, THAT Ken Hodges. The expectation from those around the 3rd floor water cooler is that Balfour will ask for a speedy trial, then use other Senator’s expense reports to show that everyone else is “just as sloppy” as Balfour was in completing his.
A few problems with this strategy:
1) Balfour wasn’t just one of 56 Senators who “may” have been sloppy. He was the guy in charge of the audit committee. Or at least, should have been, but he never got around to fulfilling his duty as mandated by both state law and Senate rules.
2) Balfour was made aware of this by the AJC in 2010, but failed to act until well after ethics charges had been filed years later.
3) There is a clear pattern here that is greater than the actual charges. The charges stem from dates that it can be proven that the Senator WASN’T IN THE STATE while he was claiming mileage and per diem for driving to the Capitol. In 2011 alone, Balfour claimed 123 Committee days ON TOP of the 50 days he automatically gets for being a Senator. He claimed mileage for each of these days to and from Snellville even though his campaign was paying for a $2,100 per month condo in Midtown Atlanta. Even though Balfour chaired the committee that determines which legislation moves to the floor and under what circumstances, he manged to claim he was working on his committee almost every other calendar day in 2011. And yet he never found time to organize his audit committee.
There was a time when Balfour would have likely been allowed to exit quietly. That time hopefully has long passed. As one final reminder of the quality of this Senator’s character, let us remember how Balfour judged his peer Ralph David Abernathy III when he too sat facing legal issues. Balfour called for Abernathy’s expulsion, saying “the standards (for a Senator) should not be lower than the standards of elementary school children.”
Some around the capitol are taking the “rumors” of Balfour’s defense strategy as a bit of a threat. Their own expense reports and spending patterns will likely be used very publicly if these rumors are true.
This is no reason to back down. This is more of a reason that a man with a documented history of abusing his power should be made an example of. Just as he advocated against his former peer, the convicted Ralph David Abernathy III.