Here’s the lede on the Don Balfour story by my AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin:
The Senate Ethics Committee voted Thursday to fine Sen. Don Balfour $5,000 and the Snellville Republican will also repay about $350 to the state.
Balfour, chairman of the Rules Committee, was accused of billing the state for mileage while out of town on lobbyist-funded trips, and for failing to create a subcommittee to audit all senators’ reimbursement vouchers.
The decision isn’t sitting well with everyone. Here’s the statement that state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, the advocate for the $100 cap on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers, posted on his Facebook page:
“Today the Senate Ethics Committee entered into a settlement with Sen. Don Balfour regarding the multiple ethics complaints which had been filed regarding the alleged abuse of per diem policy to include the filing of false reports and the failure to convene an Audit Subcommittee of the Senate Rules Committee in order to comply with Georgia law.
“The Ethics Committee found that Sen. Balfour did fail to follow the per diem policy, filed false reports and failed in his responsibility to convene an Audit Subcommittee as required by Georgia law.
“While I strongly agree with the Committee’s determination of guilt, I disagree with the penalty, which will not deter future serious breaches of Georgia law and is not as strong as penalties imposed when similar offenses have been committed in the past.
“I will be preparing a minority report in the days to come which I will forward on to appropriate parties for consideration which will address these matters in much greater detail. Suffice it to say that the action taken today, in my opinion, further undermines public confidence in state government and reinforces the anything goes culture at the Capitol.”
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider