Panel appointed to consider Balfour suspension

Snellville’s Don Balfour’s future in the state Senate while he awaits trial on theft and other charges will be determined soon.

On Wednesday, Gov. Nathan Deal named two GOP leaders and a retired judge to a panel to determine whether the indicted senator, once a powerful Republican himself, will be suspended from office.

House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, R-Bonaire, state Senate Majority Leader Ronnie Chance, R-Tyrone, and retired state Supreme Court Chief Justice Georga Carley were named to the panel, described by the state constitution to determine whether the indictment relates to or adversely affects the administration of the office.

Balfour was indicted last month on 18 charges related to false expense reports, where the former Senate Rules chairman sought reimbursement for state work at a time when lobbyist records show he has out of state.

The panel’s ruling is due Nov. 15 — about two months before legislators are due to convene under the Gold Dome — and is final.

If Balfour is suspended, he would continue to receive his legislative pay and benefits but would not perform his duties until the legal case is determined.

Last year, Balfour paid a fine and returned the money after facing the Senate Ethics Panel.