Remember state Rep. Tim Bearden, R-Villa Rica, the lawmaker who pushed for schoolchildren to be able to brandish assault rifles in Moon Jumps? Or maybe it was the right to carry guns in some public places. Yeah, that was it! We gave him a Golden Sleaze award in 2008 when he helped pave the way for gun-toting MARTA riders.
Well, Bearden's back in the news.
According to documents obtained by news service CarrolltonGeorgia.com, the state lawmaker's been paid nearly $93,000 since October 2005 by the City of Carrollton for "consulting fees."
The site tried to inquire about Bearden's work on behalf of the city's taxpayers and requested a contract of their relationship. The city, in response, said no such document exists and that its relationship with Bearden is based on a "verbal agreement." When asked for evidence of what Bearden's consulting has produced, the city told the news site it didn't have any documents that matched the request. (The site has PDFs of its communications with the city, as well as a list of the checks and amounts paid to Bearden.)
Throw into the mix Carrollton Mayor Wayne Garner who's also a Gold Dome lobbyist and you've got some small-town political intrigue that makes Georgia such a wonderful place to grow old and die.
CarrolltonGeorgia.com says it reached out to Bearden, but received no response. In lieu of an explanation, the site's posted a video in which the state lawmaker said citizens should be interested how their tax dollars are used. The video was recorded at the April 15 Tea Party protest in Carrollton.
According to Bearden's bio and most recent personal finance disclosures, he's self-employed as a Realtor and has a business interest in a hair salon. Past disclosures show he owned a Villa Rica trophy store. He also served as a law enforcement officer. According to Bearden's campaign site, he was named Officer of the Year by the Douglasville Police Department in 2003.
Carrollton City Manager Casey Coleman tells CL that the city approached Bearden about conducting consulting work for the city's police department. He said Bearden often leads programs and initiatives and assists with some matters "you can't talk about." Coleman elaborated on the statement about Carroll County black ops missions, saying many of those efforts, for legal reasons, are not open to public records. He said Bearden has also assisted the city in some negotiations with the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services.
When asked about the questions raised about a state lawmaker working as a consultant in a city where the mayor's a Gold Dome lobbyist, Coleman said things are on the up and up.
"Certainly they're friends," Coleman said, referring to Garner and Bearden. "They know each other. In fact, we've all been friends for many, many years. One of them is doing some consulting work for us Tim Bearden and our mayor is a professional lobbyist. They're not the same and they're not associating with each other."
Now, one could argue that state lawmakers who are part-time who work on municipal issues isn't anything new. But Bearden's situation raises questions.
When the former state lawmaker helped the city negotiate with DFACS, was he representing his constituents or a client? Has the working relationship affected any legislation Bearden's voted on, proposed or helped craft? And how awkward is it for someone to both cut you a check and fight for your ear in the Capitol?
CL placed a call to Bearden, Garner and the city's human resources department for comment. We'll update if we hear word. Judging by our previous efforts to reach out to mayors and sort through suburban Atlanta politics, we're not holding our breath.
(Photo by Joeff Davis)
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