The implications of a routine appointment by Nathan Deal

A theory posed by Tom Crawford of the Georgia Report:

Gov. Nathan Deal has taken a page from the political playbook of Sonny Perdue by appointing the spouse of the top federal prosecutor for North Georgia to a seat on a state commission.

Deal’s office last week disclosed that the governor has reappointed J. Comer Yates, the husband of U.S. Attorney Sally Q. Yates, to a seat on the Georgia Commission on Hearing Impaired and Deaf Persons.

Because of that gubernatorial appointment of her spouse, Sally Yates, who has extensive experience prosecuting political corruption cases, will be required by Justice Department rules to recuse herself from any future investigations that her office may undertake involving Deal’s activities.

Deal has put himself in a similar position regarding potential federal investigations as his predecessor as governor, Perdue.

In August 2006, as Perdue was in the middle of his reelection campaign, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a series of articles that detailed Perdue’s real estate investments in Houston County and in Florida.

The biggest media bombshell was exploded by the AJC on Aug. 19, 2006, when it published an article by James Salzer that recounted how Perdue signed legislation in 2005 granting himself a $100,000 tax break on a property sale. The tax break for Perdue had been surreptitiously added as a committee amendment to a routine tax bill that was subsequently adopted by the General Assembly.

The media disclosures prompted calls by Democrats for federal investigations of Perdue’s real estate dealings and the midnight tax break, but no indictments were ever returned against Perdue and no ethics investigations were launched. Perdue was easily reelected to a second term as governor.

About six weeks after the Salzer article detailing Perdue’s secret tax break appeared in the AJC, Perdue appointed Atlanta lawyer Catherine M. O’Neil to a seat on the state’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. The O’Neil appointment was announced by the governor’s office on Sept. 28, 2006.

O’Neil, then as now, is the wife of David Nahmias, who was the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia in 2006. Nahmias’ office would have been responsible for carrying out federal investigations, if any had occurred, into Perdue’s real estate dealings.

When Nahmias stepped down as U.S. Attorney in 2009, he was promptly appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court by Perdue. Nahmias then ran for a full term on the Supreme Court in 2010.

During that 2010 campaign for a full term on the court, this reporter asked Nahmias in an interview whether he or his office had ever looked into Perdue’s real estate dealings back in 2006.

Nahmias’ answer: “The reality is, when this land deal came up, the governor had appointed my wife to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. Under DOJ policy, I was recused formally. All I know about anything that was done was in the media. We’re very careful not to say whether we’re investigating. I don’t even know if there was an investigation. I was walled off. I think it went to Sally Yates as the first assistant.”

Brian Robinson, a spokesman for Deal, said it was silly to suggest some ulterior motive in this case.

“Comer Yates was part of a group reappointment. The entire board was reappointed at once, at the recommendation of the executive director,” Robinson said. The spokesman said the governor’s office was unaware of internal U.S. Department of Justice policies on conflicts of interest.

“We did 33 appointments just last week. These are non-paying positions. Our investigations don’t go into what their spouses do,” he said. “It would have looked more odd to take him off.”

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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65 comments Add your comment

GaBlue

July 8th, 2011
1:35 pm

Well of course he has! Some snakes are just too important to be investigated! Gov. Shady has decided he’s one of them. Well done, Sir.

really?

July 8th, 2011
1:58 pm

Well the good upstanding citizens of Georgia wanted him and now they have him. No need to complain about something that everyone knew was going to happen.

breakfast time

July 8th, 2011
2:00 pm

This story has more layers than a Hungry Jack biscuit.

Mr. Holmes

July 8th, 2011
2:02 pm

Much as I’d like to pillory Nathan Deal for this appointment, Comer Yates is not an inappropriate selection for this position. He is the longtime executive director of Atlanta Speech School, which is open to all kids but especially caters to those with hearing impairments.

Mr. Holmes

July 8th, 2011
2:04 pm

I’m not arguing that Deal was ignorant of the ancillary benefits of appointing Yates. But it’s not a case of his appointing his third cousin Jethro or something.

Choosey Republican

July 8th, 2011
2:06 pm

It’s no wonder politics is so full of degenerates. Good people like Governor Deal get sick of every nitwit gossip trying to read into innocuous little things like re-appointing people to the board of whatever.

The real degenerates sneak in the shadows and then lie about their actions. God forbid we investigate them!

Mr. Holmes

July 8th, 2011
2:14 pm

Choosey Republican: Make no mistake, Nathan Deal is as reptilian as they come.

Still, he’s showing signs of not being a Tea Party true believer, and faced with such a Sophie’s choice, I’d rather have a corrupt pragmatist than a pure-hearted right-wing ideologue.

catlady

July 8th, 2011
2:21 pm

Can’t the spouse refuse the appointment?

Out-game the gamester?

The Ghost of Lester Maddox

July 8th, 2011
2:31 pm

Aw hell, give the appointee a break….after all….would YOU want to go through this life with a name like “COMER”? Bet the kids on the playground picked on him when he was growing up.

GaBlue

July 8th, 2011
2:36 pm

Mr. Holmes,

Are you telling us that this appointment is not akin to appointing a guy who puts on horse shows for a living to manage an important federal agency that deals with life-or-death emergencies? I’m happy to know that Mr. Yates is appropriately qualified, so thank you for that information. To tell the truth, Gov. Shady has thus far not been as incompetent as I expected, although he has been just as shady. Like you, I am at least glad to see a pragmatic element in the office.

crabby

July 8th, 2011
2:51 pm

Tell me again the date and time of the Tea Party rally at the state capital.

Sandra

July 8th, 2011
2:54 pm

Deal will always watch out for his best interests and those of his family and friends. Didn’t he make the statement that the most difficult thing for him was saying ‘No’ to favors asked by family and friends…..an no doubt he considers himself as top of the list. For those of you who voted for him…you got just what you asked for.

The Snark

July 8th, 2011
2:57 pm

The Snark has known Comer Yates for decades. He is a Democrat who once ran for Congress, and gave up a very lucrative law practice to be the headmaster of a very small school for kids with speech problems. Comer is as fine a human being as you can find anywhere

Just in case anyone finds it relevant.

td

July 8th, 2011
2:58 pm

And you libs talk about a “Vast right wing conspiracy”. Jim, I heard the Koch brothers and Murdock were going in together to buy the AJC so that they can fire you, Bookman and the rest of the editorial board. Watch out for that helicopter.

kc

July 8th, 2011
3:12 pm

murdoch, ailes, nixon, koch boys, rove, libby, same peas in a pod….

GaBlue

July 8th, 2011
3:13 pm

The Snark,

On behalf of the oft-neglected and under-prioritized children of Georgia, I am thrilled to hear that there are decent folk in state positions. Thank you for sharing!

Ernesto

July 8th, 2011
3:13 pm

How many stories will have to be published about Nathan Deal’s shady business before an ethical investigation is open and let it be done?

KP

July 8th, 2011
3:23 pm

Comer Yates may be a qualified choice, but surely there were others. The appearance of impropriety is almost as bad as the actual act. This is what turns people off about politics.

Hamilton

July 8th, 2011
3:56 pm

As George Washington Plunkitt of Tamany Hall once said,
“There’s an honest graft, and I’m an example of how it works. I might sum up the whole thing by sayin’: “I seen my opportunities and I took ‘em.”

Just let me explain by examples. My party’s in power in the city, and it’s goin’ to undertake a lot of public improvements. Well, I’m tipped off, say, that they’re going to lay out a new park at a certain place.

I see my opportunity and I take it. I go to that place and I buy up all the land I can in the neighborhood. Then the board of this or that makes its plan public, and there is a rush to get my land, which nobody cared particular for before.

Ain’t it perfectly honest to charge a good price and make a profit on my investment and foresight? Of course, it is. Well, that’s honest graft. “

bart

July 8th, 2011
4:06 pm

The Ga electorate knew that Deal is ethically challenged when they elected him. They got what they deserved.

Will Jones - Jeffersonian Exegesis

July 8th, 2011
4:08 pm

The real story buried in this list of 33 appointments is Chris Riley’s father.

G-d help us.

bigapplegeorgiapeach

July 8th, 2011
4:27 pm

Haven’t you heard? There will never be an ethics investigation of Deal. The good ‘ol boys are in charge and intend to keep it that way!

TIM

July 8th, 2011
4:42 pm

Alot of pants on fire at the capital lately……….

Wayne Martin

July 8th, 2011
5:48 pm

The Snark is correct. Comer Yates is a Democrat – as is Salyy Yates is an Obama appointee – and he is very qualified for this role. Governor Deal got this one right. Take it from this African-American male who was coached in Mock Trial by Mr. Yates. He is a fine man and will do great work for this state.

The Centrist

July 8th, 2011
7:04 pm

Off Topic: Just heard a businessman say that the last thing we need is for government to cut spending because it will cost jobs!!! SMH, then I thought about NASA.

eatmotacos

July 8th, 2011
7:23 pm

The fact that Shady, with more baggage than a C-5 Galaxy can haul, was elected, is indicative of the mental capacity of the majority of Georgia’s registered voters. That’s not news, given what his predecessor was able to get away with. He couldn’t have set the bar any lower – when he left office, it was on the ground.

Reality Check

July 8th, 2011
7:34 pm

There are a lot of things you can go after Deal for but this is petty Jim. I thought it was equally petty when people said the same thing about Nahmias/Perdue. Not really sure how it helps a current governor when someone they supposedly know has to recuse themselves.

double

July 8th, 2011
7:43 pm

John Gault says it best demopublicans/republicrats.No difference two wings of establishment party.

billc

July 8th, 2011
7:52 pm

Um…. Reality Check, ever think he may have appointed them because he WANTED them to recuse themself?

Plan 9 From Outer Space

July 8th, 2011
8:03 pm

This is just like about 7 of the 9 plans from outer space, man.

Ghost Rider

July 8th, 2011
8:12 pm

I offer this not so much as a defense of Governor Deal, but to point out the landscape of “Political Insider”.

If Jesus Christ (R) assumed the governorship of Georgia, your next morning’s “Political Insider” would doubtless point out his lack of experience and qualifications for this position, including his lack of formal education. Most of the people who blog here would dutifully chime in with various criticisms of the new Governor and firmly declare that the voters got that for which they had voted. Of course, the next “hit” piece would be on the new Governor’s opposition to the Sunday sales of alcohol (Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy). His association with people of dubious character would make the new Governor the subject of yet another article even though such associations would be for the purpose of saving the souls of the wayward.

Should Jesus Christ (D) assume the governorship, we would be treated to a chorus of angelic voices singing his praises echoed by the bloggers here. The new Governor would be held in very high regard almost, but not quite, on a level with President Obama. All would be well in the world of the AJC, liberals and Democrats.

Hide-n-seek

July 8th, 2011
8:29 pm

Who is that masked Ghost Rider?

Serious Robuck

July 8th, 2011
8:32 pm

Are we ready to anoint the governor as “King Nate”

Serious Robuck

July 8th, 2011
8:32 pm

Lauder

July 8th, 2011
8:47 pm

They all lie, steal, and cheat……..you have to pick the one that will pillage and rob the least. That’s the way I look at it. As far I’m concerned anyone that becomes a Governor, Big City Mayor, Senator will get lots and lots of perks. Your kids will get to choose which big name Universities they want to attend. You get to appoint all your family members and buddies to high paying posts, You get insider information on big real estate deals and can profit immensely, and let’s not forget about the private plane rides, under the table cash, extravagant vacations/dinners, the list goes on.

ralph

July 8th, 2011
8:59 pm

How in the heck can anybody be corrupted over appointment to a non-paying, pain in the ass board seat on the Georgia Commission on Hearing Impaired and Deaf Persons or the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, which has nothing to do with anything they do for any form of income or profit? Those volunteer positions are pure public service with hardly any propsects for any hidden agendas.
Governors have to appoint hundreds of people to such boards, and the biggest challenge is to find enough people with a brain who are willing to take the appointments.

Get a life!

tom mitchell

July 8th, 2011
9:01 pm

Sally Yates is a conniving and pompous ass, as though who know her will attest. Her husband is a weakling cuckold. The public deserves much better.

B. Thenet

July 8th, 2011
9:06 pm

The best part about Deal being governor is that when the time comes there will be no shortage of Georgia’s Finest to arrest that crooked slimeball.

Frederick Douglass

July 8th, 2011
9:31 pm

Ghost Rider @ 8:12

Seems to me you have your paragraphs back asswards. In the first one, you need to plug Obama’s name in, and instead of governor put POTUS.

Rob

July 8th, 2011
9:38 pm

Comer yates is very qualified for the appointment, and a Democrat, a contrast to many of the political hacks Deal has appointed to other boards as political payoffs. And, the fact is that there are many other very qualified prosecutors in the US Attorney’s office who can handle this case exactly as well as if Sally Yates were personally involved. If it was his intention to affect any potential prosecution, I think the governor may have outsmarted himself on this one.

dave

July 8th, 2011
9:41 pm

ralph you may have a life, but you don’t have a clue!

td

July 8th, 2011
9:52 pm

Ghost Rider

July 8th, 2011
8:12 pm

Day three article would try to say that he has to be a womanizer since he was single or that he was a member of the log cabin republicans.

td

July 8th, 2011
9:55 pm

Frederick Douglass

July 8th, 2011
9:31 pm
Ghost Rider @ 8:12

Seems to me you have your paragraphs back asswards. In the first one, you need to plug Obama’s name in, and instead of governor put POTUS

On this blog? You have got to be kidding me. The liberals outnumber the conservatives 20 to 1. This is the same blog that was 20 post to 1 before the 2010 election that kept trying to say Barnes was going to win. Well, maybe if you see it that way then Obama may not get re elected.

Frederick Douglass

July 8th, 2011
11:08 pm

td @ 9:55

You need to cease and desist with that liberal bias bullsh*t, if that escaped simian from Fernbank ran for something as a republican, he’d get elected in this state.

Alabama Communist

July 8th, 2011
11:47 pm

It’s nice to be the King of Georgia until a real revolution comes!

Leroy

July 9th, 2011
12:04 am

Methinks this is much ado about nothing.

td

July 9th, 2011
12:11 am

Frederick Douglass

July 8th, 2011
11:08 pm
td @ 9:55

You need to cease and desist with that liberal bias bullsh*t, if that escaped simian from Fernbank ran for something as a republican, he’d get elected in this state.

You my friend have either not been paying attention to this paper or are Lennin side of the political spectrum if you do not think these blogs are very liberal. Every columnist on the AJC staff (except Kyle) is a liberal and the vast majority of the posters are liberals. If you do not believe this then just go and count the number of posters in favor of the liberal agenda against the number not in favor of it. All the polls state that only 30 to 35% of this nation is liberal and I assure you that this blog has about a 85 to 90% liberal leaning.

Reality Check

July 9th, 2011
12:11 am

billc – The case still gets heard, just with a different attorney or a different judge.

td

July 9th, 2011
12:13 am

Frederick Douglass

July 8th, 2011
11:08 pm

BTW: You are correct that the vast majority of this state is conservative and would not vote for any liberal no matter what.

BehindEnemyLines

July 9th, 2011
12:25 am

Am I the only person who noticed the word “REappointment” with regard to Yates? That would certainly lead a reasonable person to the possibility that this is simply a routine administrative detail than any grand political scheme.

C’mon Jim, you’re capable of better work than this muckraking crap, how about you start doing that instead of the recent partyline shilling you’ve gotten into the habit of?