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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Colleague says Balfour should pay bigger fine

At least one lawmaker was unhappy by last week's agreement in the ethics case against Gwinnett Sen. Don Balfour.

Josh McKoon, a Republican from Columbus, was the lone member of the Senate Ethics Committee to vote against the settlement, which came among allegations that Balfour filed erroneous documentation seeking reimbursement for travel inside the state when filings from lobbyists showed he was not in Georgia.

McKoon asked for a stiffer fine than the $5,000 imposed, in a minority report filed earlier this week.

Known for his campaign to restrict lobbyist spending, McKoon wants the attorney general to consider Balfour's actions. He called for the full Senate to consider a censure resolution, and he wants Balfour, R-Snellville, removed as Rules Committee chairman.

Balfour's attorney, Robert Highsmith, said the Ethics Committee vote means the matter is over, regardless of McKoon's filing.Deals speaks at luncheonThe Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce will continue its two-day political pitch with a speech by Gov. Nathan Deal.

The group of business and civic leaders heard an address from U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss Wednesday, and another top leader will be by Thursday to kick off the annual Business Expo and Job Fair.

"Communities such as Gwinnett that encourage business growth and provide an attractive place to live and play are what make this state one of the best places to do business, not just in the nation, but internationally as well," Deal said in a press release previewing the event. "Only by working together with the many vibrant communities across the state can we make Georgia the most globally competitive place to grow businesses. Gwinnett is a leader when it comes to preparing our future workforce for the jobs of tomorrow. Parents and community leaders have teamed up to achieve excellence in education, and the county boasts the highest-performing state-approved charter school in Georgia, Ivy Prep."

The double feature is a political coup for the Chamber.

"In order to grow job opportunities and create wealth in Gwinnett and the state of Georgia, it is essential that we work together at the local, regional and state levels," said Jim Maran, president and CEO of the group. "The Gwinnett Chamber has a strong working relationship with Gov. Deal and has greatly benefited from his support in our economic development efforts and his high level of engagement with the Gwinnett community. This luncheon with Gov. Deal presents a wonderful opportunity to continue this collaboration in order to achieve our common goal of economic success."

For details and to learn how to attend the luncheon and the Gwinnett Chamber Business Expo & Job Fair, visit www.gwinnettchamber.org/events.

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

Camie Young can be reached via email at camie.young@gwinnettdailypost.com.

For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/politics.

Comments

Say_that_again 2 years, 3 months ago

Most public workers would have been fired for the extreme ethics violations (and probable theft) of Balfour, why does he get off so easy?

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Say_that_again 2 years, 3 months ago

So Deal says "... highest-performing state-approved charter school in Georgia, Ivy Prep." And then explain: 1. Why Gwinnett denied renewal of the charter because they failed to perform up to standard, 2. Why the state charter board insisted that they bring up their standards to keep state funding, 3. Why Deal was so careful to qualify his statement with "charter" and ignore the fact that they continue to perform below Gwinnett County public school averages. How much campaign funding does Deal get from the private charter schools to give such obvious misinformation?

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Don_Coyote 2 years, 3 months ago

Sen. Balfour should be facing more than a stiffer fine. He should be facing an official investigation by the Attorney General and possibly a Grand Jury beyond. In 2011 Sen. Balfour claimed far more per diem days than any other legislator. All total he claimed 173 days that he worked, with 50 being the standard issued to all for the session, 20 "committee days" during the session and 103 "committee days" outside of the session. 83 of those "committee days" were charged to his own Rules Committee that doesn't meet and has no need to meet when the legislature is not in session. Does he still work for Waffle House in the remaining 100 or so work days left in the year? All he has been caught on so far was he also claimed travel mileage from Snellville on days when lobbyists' records prove he was out of town. Keep in mind that Sen. Balfour claimed this mileage for each and every per diem day outside of the session even though he pays for a $2100 per month condo on Peachtree St. from his $740k campaign war chest. The independent and volunteer Georgia Transparency Project compiles this data from the required paperwork and is to be commended but how about an investigation from an entity with the power of subpoena?

At the very least the "openness and transparency" promised to the citizens should have mandated that the Ethics Committee hearing for Sen. Balfour be public. This smacks of a kangaroo court with the chairman of the Rules Committee in Sen. Balfour, and therefore arguably the one with the most power, sitting in judgement by his somewhat lesser peers. His committee determines whose bill makes it to the floor and I fear it will be a long, long time before any bills by Sen. McKoon see the light of day. Unfortunately, since Sen. McKoon is a sponsor of the ethics legislation proposing a $100 cap from lobbyists. Also by Georgia Law as Chairman of the Rules Committee, Sen. Balfour was required to appoint a sub-committee to ensure that these very expense reports were true and they haven't even properly addressed that matter. With this closed-door backroom deal they are proving that any ethics legislation will require an independent entity to police the legislators. It is quite obvious that they don't or won't police themselves.

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