Friday, June 14, 2013

Deal appoints panel to look into state Rep. Brooks' possible suspension from Gold Dome

Posted By on Fri, Jun 14, 2013 at 1:15 PM

Rep. Tyrone Brooks during a press conference on Moores Ford Bridge in Monroe, Georgia, May 30, 2013. During the press conference he said the charges against him were the result of his work investigating the 1946 Moores Ford Bridge Lynching in which four African Americans were murdered in a crime that was never solved.
  • Joeff Davis
  • Rep. Tyrone Brooks, shown here during a press conference in late May at Moores Ford Bridge in Monroe, Ga. The state lawmaker has said the charges against him were the result of his work investigating the unsolved 1946 Moores Ford Bridge Lynching.
Gov. Nathan Deal has tapped two high-ranking Democrats as part of a panel to determine whether state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, D-Atlanta, should be suspended from office following his recent federal indictment.

Deal today announced that Attorney General Sam Olens, state Rep. Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, and state Sen. Steve Henson, D-Atlanta, would comprise a three-person panel tasked with looking into the 30 counts of mail, wire, and tax fraud and filing false tax returns that were filed against Brooks last month.

The Georgia Constitution requires the governor to appoint a three-person panel, which needed to include one state representative, one state senator, and the state attorney general. Deal spokesman Brian Robinson says that the governor's executive order asks Abrams, Henson, and Olens to submit a written report with its findings some time in the next 14 days.

"If the panel determines that Brooks should stay in office, he'll continue in his official duties for the remainder of his term in office," Robinson said in a statement. "If it decides to suspend him, Brooks will continue to receive his legislative pay and benefits but will be unable to act in an official capacity."

If the panel chooses to suspend Brooks, the seat would remain vacant until the next election for his seat. Likewise, the Atlanta lawmaker would be able to continue serving in an official capacity if he was found innocent of the charges.

A federal grand jury indicted Brooks last month of misappropriating more than $1 million from two nonprofit organizations, Universal Humanities Inc. and the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials. He's accused of using funds donated from companies and individuals to pay for his own personal expenses.

Following the U.S. Attorney's announcement of the charges, Brooks suggested that the government had pushed for his indictment because of his continued efforts to probe the 1946 Moore's Ford Bridge killings. Brooks said at the time that he and others were "getting close to proving federal involvement in the lynching massacre."

At a recent press conference, the state lawmakers' current attorney, former Gov. Roy Barnes, said that Brooks did not break any laws, has never taken a salary from the two groups, and only used the money to pay for related expenses.

Barnes has also come under fire this week for a potential conflict of interest in representing Brooks in the case. According to the AJC, the U.S. Attorney's office has said that GABEO has previously listed the Marietta lawyer as one of its general counsels and reportedly received $5,000 for "legal services" in April 2012. Barnes told the paper that he was an "honorary counsel only" and never did any work for GABEO.

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