Political Notes — Lee could exit Ethics Commission

Attorney Teddy Lee has served as executive secretary of the State Ethics Commission for more than 15 years, but that tenure could come to an end Wednesday when the commission holds its regularly scheduled meeting at the Douglas County courthouse.

The commission’s five members are expected to vote to dismiss Lee at their Douglasville get-together.

“There have been some indications along that line to me,” Lee said when contacted by a reporter. “I’ll be able to speak with some unaccustomed freedom after the meeting has ended.”

As the commission’s executive secretary, which is the agency’s top staff position, Lee has held one of the most sensitive jobs in state government for a comparatively long time. The Ethics Commission is authorized to investigate and resolve – usually through a negotiated agreement – complaints that elected officials and political candidates have violated Georgia’s campaign disclosure laws.

Some of these complaints have involved powerful state officials. Lee and his staff negotiated the settlement last year in which Gov. Sonny Perdue agreed to pay a $1,900 fine and return more than $18,000 in excess contributions to resolve several complaints filed by the Georgia Democratic Party. It was the first time a sitting governor had been fined for an ethics violation.

Under Lee’s administrative direction, the Ethics Commission also levied substantial fines against two past majority leaders of the state Senate: Democrat Charles Walker and Republican Bill Stephens.

Lee got into an administrative wrangle with Perdue’s staffers in 2003 when the governor’s people wanted the Ethics Commission staff to relocate from Douglasville to office space near the capitol. Lee resisted the move for several months but finally gave in and agreed to move to the Twin Towers after the Department of Administrative Services threatened to stop paying rent on the Douglasville office.

Lee was also involved in one of the state’s most bizarre political conflicts when he served as mayor of the Carroll County town of Villa Rica in the early 1990s. After he was initially elected mayor, Lee’s neighborhood was removed from the city limits when the General Assembly de-annexed almost 40 percent of the city.

A judge ruled that Lee was no longer the mayor, but Lee disagreed with that ruling and continued to show up for city council meetings where he would sit in his old chair.

If Lee is removed as executive secretary, the Ethics Commission would presumably appoint a successor with the consent of Perdue.

Closing the books

This is a story that only accountants and bean-counters would truly appreciate, but it’s important nevertheless: the official audit of state government finances for fiscal year 2005 – formally called the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) – has been completed, according to the official announcement late last week from the governor’s office.

The announcement marked the first time in three years that the audit had been finished on schedule. The CAFRs for fiscal years 2003 and 2004 were delayed for several months because of the problems with a new computer system implemented by the Department of Community Health to handle Medicaid payments to doctors and hospitals.

DCH has finally worked out most of the glitches with its computer system, which in turn has enabled state auditors to get back on track with the timely posting of the CAFR

The inability to get the earlier financial reports completed on time had hindered Georgia’s ability to sell bonds – the investment community generally likes to look at a state’s audit before investing millions of dollars in its bond issues. But Georgia was finally able to issue bonds last September and the state has been able to maintain its AAA bond rating in the financial community.

“Well-run businesses and organizations produce a timely annual financial statement,” Gov. Sonny Perdue said. “This accomplishment will allow Georgia’s business community to have greater confidence in the management practices of state government.”

Endorsements from the Kemp camp

State Sen. Brian Kemp (R-Athens), one of two Republican candidates for agriculture commissioner, released a list of more than 200 endorsements Tuesday from current and former legislators as well as elected officials from all levels.

Kemp’s list includes PSC member Bobby Baker, Transportation Board member Bill Kuhlke, 28 of the 34 Republicans in the state Senate (among them: President Pro Tem Eric Johnson and Majority Leader Tommie Williams), 53 of the 99 Republican House members, 29 sheriffs, 44 county commissioners, 16 mayors (including Wayne Garner of Carrollton, a former Democratic state senator), and a scattering of city councilmen, school board members, and county coroners.

Several endorsements are from Democrats, including Sheriffs Dobie Conner of Charlton County, Robert Thomas of Brantley County, Nick Norton of Lanier County, Ashley Paulk of Lowndes County, Randy Courson of Echols County, Clayton Lowe of Madison County, and Mike Smith of Oglethorpe County.

“Certainly, it’s something we can build on,” Kemp said.

Kemp is running against Gary Black, president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council, in the GOP primary for agriculture commissioner. The winner will oppose longtime Democratic Commissioner Tommy Irvin in the general election.

On the other hand

There are times when a list of political endorsements doesn’t always include the right names. A case in point is Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, a Democratic candidate for governor, who held a news conference last month to announce endorsements he’d received from numerous legislators and local officials in the Metro Atlanta area.

One of the supporters on Taylor’s list was Tom Scott, a former state senator who is now the DeKalb County tax commissioner. Scott says his name was put on that list by mistake – he sees Secretary of State Cathy Cox as the more likely winner in the Democratic primary.

“I like Mark – I just think that Cathy’s the better candidate at this point,” Scott said. “I wish Mark was running for lieutenant governor again.”

Woolard on board

Georgia Equality and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a national organization, have jointly hired former Atlanta City Council president Cathy Woolard to help lobby against legislation in the upcoming General Assembly session that would prohibit gays from adopting children or serving as foster parents.

“The Human Rights Campaign will be there every step of the way with Georgia Equality to ensure that needy children in Georgia are given the ability to be placed in a loving, healthy home and that decision is made without discrimination.,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.

Woolard, who was one of Georgia’s first openly gay elected officials, was elected to the Atlanta City Council in 1997 and won the council presidency in 2001. She resigned as council president in 2004 to make an unsuccessful run for Congress.

“We have a battle on our hands and Cathy is someone we can trust to lead the fight,” said Lawrie Demorest, national co-chair of HRC and a member of Georgia Equality.

Westmoreland on the move

The Fayette Citizen reported that U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, who had resided in Sharpsburg during his 13-plus years as a legislator and congressman, recently moved to a new home in Grantville in the western region of Coweta County. The move puts Westmoreland closer to the center of the redrawn and renumbered 3rd Congressional District in which he’ll be running this year.

Rogers pulls the plug

Less than two weeks after he first prefiled it, Sen. Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) decided to withdraw a bill dealing with the intravenous feeding and hydration of persons in a coma or a persistent vegetative state. Rogers’ original bill, inspired by last year’s national controversy over Terri Schiavo, would have prohibited the removal of feeding tubes from a comatose patient unless that person had left a living will.

The “Terri Schiavo bill” had been pre-filed by Rogers under the number SB 372. That bill number has now been reassigned to another measure sponsored by Rogers that would impose longer prison sentences on convicted sexual offenders.

Executive appointments

Gov. Sonny Perdue’s office announced the appointment Tuesday of Ann B. Crowder, a retired Savannah bank executive, to the board of the Georgia Lottery Corp. Crowder is a former chairman of the Georgia Student Finance Commission. Perdue has also named Linda M. Fulford of Carrollton, vice president of Ra-Lin and Associates contracting firm, to the Georgia Council for the Arts, and Dr. Brenda J. Garland, a Cornelia physician, to the State Housing Trust Fund for the Homeless Commission.

© 2006 by Capitolimpact.com


Tags: politics