Controversial state Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham has told employees he’s being ousted by incoming Gov.-elect Nathan Deal.
In a letter to employees last week, Graham said he was told by officials with the new administration that he will not be retained when Deal becomes governor. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution received a copy of his letter to employees through the Georgia Open Records Act.
“I intend to be here at least through the end of Governor Perdue’s term and will update you as soon as I have additional information,” Graham told employees.
Deal has announced some reappointments of Gov. Sonny Perdue’s department heads, but he hasn’t mentioned Graham.
Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said, “We have not yet made any announcements on the Revenue Department. We’re announcing hires and those who will continue in their current positions as those decisions are made. We’ll announce the governor-elect’s decision on that position at the appropriate time.”
Graham was expected to be targeted for firing by Deal.
Graham has been one of the state’s most aggressive revenue commissioners in decades, publicizing the names of tax offenders and vigorously going after tax cheats in court. His style made him enemies in the General Assembly, and he even had his name raised in debates by gubernatorial candidates who vowed to can him.
Deal had extra incentive to go after Graham because of their dispute over the governor-elect’s business dealings.
Deal and Ken Cronan operate a salvage yard in Gainesville that for nearly 20 years enjoyed a no-bid agreement with the state to provide space for inspections of rebuilt vehicles. The AJC reported in August 2009 that Deal intervened with Graham and other state leaders to stop Graham from changing the program that earned Deal and Cronan’s company nearly $300,000 a year. Deal said he was worried the changes would lead to more unsafe cars on Georgia roads.
The newspaper’s report led to a congressional ethics investigation that found Deal possibly violated U.S. House rules. Deal resigned from Congress in March before any formal accusation was made.
A federal grand jury later subpoenaed records and testimony from Graham about the meetings with the congressman, a top staffer and state officials. Deal told reporters he was not the target of a federal probe into the case.