Suspended Sen. Don Balfour won't step down, attorney says

Don Balfour

Don Balfour

Despite an indictment and suspension, state Sen. Don Balfour has no intentions to resign, his attorney said Wednesday, a day after a watchdog group called for the Snellville legislator to step down.

Balfour, a Republican from Snellville, faces charges of false statements and theft by taking involving false per diem claims for working at the state Capitol at a time when lobbyist disclosures show he was out of state. But attorney Ken Hodges said he is confident that a jury will find Balfour not guilty.

“The allegations were known last year when Senator Balfour was overwhelmingly reelected and we expect the jury will reach same conclusion of Senate Ethics Committee, chaired by former Superior Court Judge John Crosby,” Hodges said. “That conclusion was that the errors were inadvertent and there was no intent to file the expenditures erroneously.

“In this great country, one is innocent until proven guilty,” Hodges added. “Senator Balfour is innocent of these allegations and we are confident a jury will find that as well.

A week ago, Gov. Nathan Deal suspended Balfour from office, and Senate leadership stripped him of leadership positions, while the GOP kicked him out of their caucus. That caused officials from Common Cause Georgia to ask Balfour to resign Wednesday.

But Hodges explained that a safeguard in the state Constitution could mean that Balfour regains his post when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.

The law requires that the prosecution be brought within two terms of court or the suspension is lifted.

“The rationale is that an indictment is an ex parte (one-sided) proceeding wherein the defense is not given the opportunity to present evidence or to defend,” Hodges said in an email. “If there were no deadline in which to bring the action, the State could sit on the indictment and not move forward and Mr. Balfour would not then be allowed to return to office. If never scheduled for trial, he could never return to office. The requirement to bring the matter to trial simply requires the State to bring the case and give Mr. Balfour the opportunity to defend, which he will.”

While an arraignment hearing is scheduled for next month, no trial date has been set.