Political Notes – In times of trouble, Barnes is the one they call

[private]What do David Ralston and Tyrone Brooks have in common? On the surface, not much.

Ralston is caucasian, Brooks is an African American. Ralston is a lifelong Republican, Brooks is a lifelong Democrat.

Ralston is the speaker of the Georgia House and one of the most powerful politicians at the state capitol. Brooks is no longer even a legislator, resigning from the House two months ago.

But when both of them were facing serious legal issues, they turned to the same attorney to handle their cases: former governor Roy Barnes of Marietta.

Barnes has been formally retained as the attorney representing Ralston, who’s also a lawyer, on a complaint filed by the State Bar of Georgia in 2014 alleging professional misconduct in Ralston’s handling of a lawsuit for a client.

Brooks retained Barnes two years ago when he was indicted by a federal grand jury on fraud charges and was facing possible suspension from the General Assembly.

Barnes is widely acknowledged to be one of the state’s most skilled courtroom attorneys, and he certainly came through for Brooks.

On June 28, 2013, Barnes represented Brooks before a three-person committee appointed by the governor and chaired by Attorney General Sam Olens, a Republican, that was considering whether Brooks should be suspended from office because of his indictment.

After a hearing that lasted just 13 minutes, the committee decided that Brooks would be allowed to remain in office, where he served through two more legislative sessions.

On April 9 this year, a few days after the Legislature adjourned, Brooks pleaded nolo contendere to five counts of mail and wire fraud in federal court and “admitted his guilt as to one count of tax fraud.” It will be several months before he is sentenced.

Ralston initially retained James E. Spence Jr., who formerly was assistant general counsel of the State Bar, after the complaint was disclosed in June 2014.

The complaint stems from Ralston’s legal services for Paul E. Chernak, who was involved in an auto accident in 2006 and filed a lawsuit seeking damages.

Chernak’s case was never called for trial, however, because Ralston invoked “legislative leave,” a privilege that entitles attorneys who serve in the General Assembly to delay their appearances in court proceedings.

“Respondent (Ralston) did not consult with Mr. Chernak about seeking or obtaining delays in placing the case, or asking for the case, to be placed on the trial calendar, nor did Respondent explain to Mr. Chernak the status or progress in the case, including plans to schedule the case, or request that the case be scheduled, for trial,” the Bar complaint alleges.

“Respondent allowed his interest in being, and his duties as, a member of the Georgia Legislature to adversely affect his representation of Mr. Chernak,” the complaint said.

In his response to the complaint, Ralston said he did not violate any rules of professional conduct. “My actions were open, honest and sincere regarding my representation of this client and my efforts to help his family,” Ralston said.

Ralston faces several possible disciplinary sanctions, including disbarment, over the charges in the State Bar complaint.

Practical joke gone bad

Max Davis, the recently resigned mayor of Brookhaven who’s running in a special legislative election set for July 14, is having to deal with embarrassing media coverage of an incident that occurred while he was mayor of the new DeKalb County municipality.

Various media outlets have reported that Davis sprayed a can of Lysol in the direction of a female employee’s buttocks at Brookhaven city hall, with a resulting allegation that city officials were trying to cover up the incident.

From a report in the Brookhaven Post:

For the past two months Brookhaven officials have been involved in an intentional and orchestrated attempt to cover up records documenting a City employee’s claim of sexual harassment against former Mayor J. Max Davis.

The complaint against Davis was reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on May 13th, when Brookhaven spokeswoman Megan Matteucci, confirmed that a complaint of sexual harassment had been made against Davis by a City employee. But, neither the identity of the employee or details of the alleged incident were disclosed. Matteucci also confirmed City Attorney Tom Kurrie was investigating the matter.

In an effort to refute the AJC’s report that a sexual harassment allegation existed, both Davis and Kurrie released statements denying any incidents of sexual harassment had occurred or that any investigation of sexual harassment was being conducted.

The state Democratic Party has also jumped into the fray, charging that Davis should be disqualified from the upcoming special election to replace former legislator Mike Jacobs, who was recently appointed to a DeKalb judgeship.

“Leaders serving in the State House should be focused on making a difference in the lives of Georgians — not creating a hostile work environment for women and then trying to cover up the truth,” party spokesman Michael Smith said.

Davis is running in the special election against Republicans Catherine Bernard and Loren Collins, and Democrat Taylor Bennett.

Brazilian IT firm will expand here

Stefanini, an information technology service provider based in Brazil, said it will expand its current operations in Georgia, a move that could potentially add as many as 400 new positions.

“We are thrilled to expand operations in Georgia,” said Marco Stefanini, the firm’s CEO. “We have experienced companywide success, benefiting from a strong network of talent and customers. We look forward to growing our business globally with this newest expansion.”

© 2015 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Brookhaven , David Ralston , J. Max Davis , roy barnes , State Bar complaint , Stefanini , Tyrone Brooks