POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Pennington, Martin propose ethics reforms


David Pennington


P.K. Martin

Two challengers in the upcoming May primary set out ethics plans last week.

New structures and increased funding for state ethics panels were proposed by Dalton Mayor David Pennington, who is challenging Gov. Nathan Deal, and former Lawrenceville Councilman P.K. Martin, who is running against Sen. Don Balfour, who was exonerated of criminal charges in an ethics-related expense case last year.

“(Earlier this month), we have seen numerous reports of the state’s failure to enforce Georgia’s ethics law and the need to completely overhaul the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission. With over 169 open cases of ethics violations where no action has been taken, it’s clear there is a problem,” Martin said in a press release. “The people simply do not trust our government. When candidates for public office and elected officials are not held accountable for their actions and unethical behavior, it only increases the level of mistrust. This must change.”

Martin said he will push for new ethics laws, including harsher consequences and hefty fines for repeat offenders. Martin’s proposal includes increasing lobbyist fees as well as funding for the ethics commission and access to investigators from the attorney general’s office.

In the wake of a lawsuit involving the ethics commission, where the state must pay $700,000 to former employees forced out of the office, Pennington blasted Deal from right outside his office Wednesday.

“History has a way of repeating itself,” Pennington said. “Richard Nixon so poisoned the well for Republicans that the nation elected Jimmy Carter as president. Now 40 years later, Nathan Deal is so poisoning the well for Georgia Republicans that Jimmy Carter’s grandson could be Georgia’s next governor.”

Pennington said Republicans need to choose him in the May primary, as the “ethical conservative” in the race to keep Jason Carter out of the governor’s mansion.

The Dalton mayor released a plan to restructure the ethics commission through constitutional amendments into a five-member panel appointed by the judiciary with enough funding to end the backlog of cases.

He again challenged the governor to a debate before next month’s primary.

Democratic Party to host forum

Voters can meet a number of the Democrats on upcoming ballots, at a forum hosted by the county party this week.

Three of the four candidates in the upcoming U.S. Senate primary plan to attend, although the most high-profile hopeful, Michelle Nunn, declined an invitation.

Also expected to attend are the two Democrats contending for insurance commissioner, three of the party’s school superintendent candidates, a secretary of state hopeful and some local state House and Senate candidates.

The forum is scheduled for 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the old Lawrenceville city hall.

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.