A state panel cleared former Gov. Roy Barnes of ethics violations and gave a lobbyist who paid for House Speaker David Ralston's trip to Europe a slap on the wrist.
The state ethics commission also delayed issuing a ruling on several complaints against Gov. Nathan Deal and former Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine.
The hearings on Barnes and man who paid for Ralston's trip centered on one question: Who is a lobbyist?
The panel decided James Brady, the man who paid for the house speaker's trip, is a lobbyist, and the former governor is not.
Barnes, who is also an attorney, represented a client before a local zoning board in 2007. He registered as a lobbyist as a precaution even though he was not required to, he said.
A conservative blogger, however, filed a complaint during Barnes's unsuccessful run for his old job in 2008, saying the former governor did not file lobbyist disclosure reports.
The Ethics Commission ruled Barnes did not have to file the report and unanimously dismissed the complaint.
"I wasn't required to register as a lobbyist, if I wasn't required to register, I can't be held liable for filing a report I wasn't required to in the first place," Barnes said. "I refuse to lobby, I will never lobby."
The watchdog group, Common Cause, filed a complaint against Brady, saying he did not register as a lobbyist or file a disclosure report until after the house speaker's 2010 trip.
Brady paid for a $17,000 trip to Europe for the house speaker.
Brady's lawyer, Stefan Passantino, said the trip was only a fact-finding mission on high-speed rail.
Brady, who represents the rail industry, paid for the trip to educate the speaker in the countries where they are researching the high-speed rail technology, Passantino said.
Passantino insisted the trip was not a gift since no lawmakers introduced any legislation on high-speed rail.
"It was clearly for the purpose of allowing the speaker to learn more about technology, but it wasn't lobbying," Passantino said.
When asked why Brady did not register as a lobbyist or file a disclosure report on time, Passantino answered, "he didn't think it was required and upon returning, from the trip, he concluded he'd rather err on the side of transparency."
The panel fined Brady $300. Common Cause Executive Director, William Perry, called the fine "a slap on the wrist.
"Clearly paying $17,000 for a trip to Europe is lobbying."
The commission delayed making a decision on complaints filed after 10 political action committees funneled money into former Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine's unsuccessful run for governor in 2008.
The panel also put off a decision on complaints filed against Deal.
A former ethics commission official claimed that she was forced out as she investigated Deal's campaign.
Randy Evans, the governor's attorney, said the accusation is not true.
"You have a disgruntled employees who wanted to set up a lawsuit," Evans said.
The commission could issue rulings on Oxendine and Deal next month.
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
Friday, May 24 2013 10:30 PM EDT2013-05-25 02:30:43 GMT
The story is familiar. Students park their cars in a lot at Emory Village, go into a restaurant for lunch, but when they walk out they see a sight that gives them indigestion. "I found my car was booted,"More >
Students have complained that, for years, Alpha Booting Company has swooped in and booted legally parked cars.More >
Friday, May 17 2013 7:16 PM EDT2013-05-17 23:16:53 GMT
One person has died in a crash near Harrisonville, MO, Thursday evening. The crash happened on Missouri Highway 7 and Walker Road. It involved a car and a tractor-trailer. Harrisonville is in Cass County.More >
Savannah Nash celebrated her 16th birthday last week. She died Thursday when her car slammed into a semi while she was texting during her first time driving by herself.More >
Friday, May 24 2013 7:16 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:16:39 GMT
(RNN) – When faced with a cleaver-wielding killer who'd just murdered someone, what would you do? For Ingrid Loyau-Kennet, the answer was obvious. Instead of running for her life, she engaged him inMore >
A British woman voluntarily put herself face-to-face with an alleged terrorist and may have saved lives. More >
Saturday, May 25 2013 10:36 AM EDT2013-05-25 14:36:31 GMT
For the first time in weeks, we're actually not forecasting rain in Atlanta on a weekend. A strong area of high pressure will build into North Georgia and create mostly sunny skies through Memorial Day. TemperaturesMore >
A strong area of high pressure will build into North Georgia and create mostly sunny skies through Memorial Day.More >