Political Notebook: Solicitor to investigate state seal on mailer

Gwinnett's solicitor is reportedly investigating a negative campaign mailer with the seal of the state of Georgia on it.

The ad, labeled an "official Gwinnett conservative Republican voter guide," has a label marking it as "Paid for by Bannister for Chairman," but incumbent Charles Bannister said he knew nothing about it before finding it in his mail.

But Lorraine Green, a commissioner challenging Bannister in Tuesday's Republican primary who was the target of the ad, contacted Solicitor General Rosanna Szabo about the matter. According to a press release from the Green campaign, Szabo is requesting a special prosecutor look into a possible violation because of the use of the state seal.

"It is an extremely serious situation for Mr. Bannister to use the state seal in a non-approved, strictly political capacity," Green said, adding she heard from voters confused why the state would send information against a candidate. "The use of the Georgia seal to deceive voters into believing that mailings came from the state is an extremely serious violation of trust."

Bannister said he did not approve the ad, although he acknowledged that his campaign's stamp was on it.

"This is embarrassing and uncalled for," he said. "If I had (seen it), it would never have been approved. Now I have to find who the culprit is and deal with it."

Later in the day Friday, Bannister and campaign officials said there is legal precedence that says the mailer is not illegal. But he said he would still have probably decided against the use of the seal if it had been brought before him.

"I respect the state seal. I've never used it in a campaign in all my years in the legislature," he said.

But Green said Bannister is responsible for the mailer, since his name is on it and his campaign paid for it.

"Charles Bannister has lied throughout this campaign," she said. "But voters can see through his campaign's dirty tricks, anonymous recorded telephone calls and untrue mailings. It appears that this may be one lie too many."

Green herself was the subject of another complaint filed Friday by George Anderson, a Rome man who is director of the Ethics in Government Group.

He filed a complaint Friday alleging Green acted inappropriately in the county's purchase of land for a Beaver Ruin Road passive park in January 2007. The controversial park purchase from former Chairman Wayne Mason came over the objections of Bannister.

Anderson said Mason has exceeded the political contribution limit for Green's campaign, and he made the same accusations concerning the campaigns of Sheriff Butch Conway and his wife, State Court Judge Carla Brown.

Green said she had not seen the complaint and declined to comment.

Political Notebook appears in the Thursday and Sunday editions of the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Camie Young can be reached via e-mail at camie.young@gwinnettdailypost.com.