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Friday, December 5, 2008

'Private cities' ethics complaints need further investigation

Ethics complaints filed by a Sierra Club lobbyist for alleged improper influence-peddlin' at the state Capitol for the controversial "private cities" bill require further investigation, says Rick Thompson, executive director of the Georgia State Ethics Commission.

The complaints, filed by Gold Dome-fixture and eco-lobbyist Neill Herring, allege Atlanta City Council President Lisa Borders, political consultant Derrick Dickey and two developer brothers from Dublin, Ga. lobbied without registering for "infrastructure development districts" — a mechanism that would've allowed developers to issue tax-free bonds to pay for sewers, roads and schools on their properties. The districts are legal in 17 other states. (You may have seen television advertisements for one, Florida's "The Villages.") Opponents of the concept call them "private cities" and say they are catalysts for sprawl. The legislation passed the General Assembly but failed a statewide referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot. (CL weighed in on the issue prior to the General Election.)

Thompson says commission staff needs to gather additional information to investigate Herring's complaints.

The commission sifted through a laundry list of ethical complaints at its hearing yesterday against state representatives, lobbyists and Mayor Shirley Franklin. (According to the AJC's Jim Galloway, the mayor's agreed to pay a fine for "paperwork violations" and "failing to fully explain some of her campaign expenditures.") Thompson says complaints filed by ethics watchdog George Anderson against Fulton County Superior Judge T. Jackson Bedford for not adequately completing campaign finance disclosures were dismissed by the commission because Bedford corrected the error.

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