Political Notes — History repeats itself as Ralston appoints Hyde to JQC

[private]House Speaker David Ralston has named Richard Hyde, a member of the old Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC), to the new version of the Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Ralston’s choice is an ironic one for several reasons, most notably because Hyde was at the center of some controversies that prompted legislators to pass a constitutional amendment last year that abolished the first version of the JQC.

The JQC investigates complaints of misconduct and unethical behavior by the state’s judges.

Hyde, a former Atlanta policeman who’s currently an investigator for an Atlanta law firm, was a member of the old JQC and, for a time, its chief investigator.

The old JQC secured the resignations of more than 60 judges, with Hyde involved in many of the investigations. A couple of the agency’s investigations, however, angered Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) and other lawmakers.

The two cases that caught the most legislative flak involved former judges Cynthia Becker and Mitchell Scoggins. Hyde acknowledged to a legislative study committee last year that, “We blew it on Becker and Scoggins and I’m here to take the punches on that. We still owe an apology to both of these people.”

Another of Hyde’s JQC investigations resulted in the resignation of a judge named Johnnie Caldwell Jr. Caldwell is now a member of the Georgia House and was one of the sponsors of the legislation that abolished the old JQC.

“When the House Special Study Committee on JQC Reform met this past year, Mr. Hyde came forward and voluntarily testified – offering forthright and firsthand insight into the previous JQC model and its operations,” said Ralston spokesman Kaleb McMichen.

“In sum, there were many reasons that the JQC needed reforming and the voters of Georgia chose to do just that this past November,” McMichen said. “Mr. Hyde, however, has a proven track record as a champion for a fair and professional judiciary. He will be an integral part of the process moving forward.

According to the announcement released Wednesday, Hyde’s appointment expires June 30.

Contractor indicted over city contracts

Atlanta contractor Elvin R. Mitchell, Jr., has been arraigned on federal charges of conspiratorial bribery and money laundering charges stemming from the alleged payment of more than $1 million to obtain construction contracts with the City of Atlanta.

Federal prosecutors charged that Mitchell, 63, and another person in the construction industry paid more than $1 million during the period from 2010 to August 2015 in the belief that the money would be paid to city officials with influence over the contracting process.

“Mitchell brazenly sought to buy government contracts,” said U.S. Attorney John A. Horn. “Contractors who bribe their way into public work undermine the integrity of the system and ultimately cost taxpayers more money to get important projects done.”

No details were released as to which city officials or projects were involved.

The big bet

Gov. Nathan Deal has made a “friendly wager” with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker over the outcome of Sunday’s NFC championship game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers.

Deal is betting Coca Cola, Varsity chili dogs, peach pies from Dickey Farms, Georgia peanuts and two six-packs of Creature Comforts’ Tropicalia, while Walker is putting up two six-packs of Leinenkugel’s Wisconsin Red Pale Ale, a box of assorted chocolates from Seroogy’s Chocolates in De Pere, jars of liquid and spreadable crystal raw honey from Wisconsin Natural Acres in Chilton, assorted Wisconsin artisan cheeses, crackers, and sausage, and a pair of Travel Wisconsin Old Fashioned glasses.

“Given the Atlanta Falcons’ stellar season under the leadership of Coach Dan Quinn and soon-to-be MVP and Pro Bowler Matt Ryan, I’m confident Falcons’ fans will be celebrating another win on Sunday,” Deal said.

Passantino to DC

Atlanta attorney Stefan Passantino of the Dentons law firm is headed to Washington to join the Office of White House Counsel in the new administration.

Passantino has specialized in representing current and former elected officials with cases before the state ethics commission, including former insurance commissioner John Oxendine.

© 2017 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: City of Atlanta bribery , David Ralston , federal prosecutors , JQC , Nathan Deal , Richard Hyde , Scott Walker , Stefan Passantino