ATLANTA (AP) _ Georgia's top judge has agreed to pay $3,100 in
fines for violating state ethics laws.
Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears will pay the sum from her own
wallet, not her campaign coffers. The payment is part of a pair of
consent orders approved by the state Ethics Commission today.
Sears was facing ethics complaints from her 2004 re-election
campaign. They alleged that the state's first female chief justice
accepted contributions exceeding the state's $5,000 legal limit,
including one $20,000 donation from a law firm. Sears also
acknowledged misreporting some campaign finance information as part
of today's consent order.
The Ethics Commission also slapped four current members of the
Legislature with hefty late fees for repeatedly failing to file
required campaign finance reports. The commission found probable
cause to proceed with investigations of the three Democrats and one
Republican, who could face additional penalties down the road.
Representative Pam Stephenson of Atlanta faces $825 in tardy
fees, Representative Randal Mangham of Decatur $775, Representative
Ron Sailor of Decatur $1,225, and Republican Representative Jay
Neal of LaFayette, $1,225.
The commission dismissed a complaint against Democratic U.S.
Senate candidate Vernon Jones alleging that the DeKalb County chief
executive officer improperly used his government position to back a
2005 bond initiative.
But the commission found probable cause to investigate parts of
an ethics complaint against failed Democratic gubernatorial
candidate Cathy Cox. The charges stem from Cox's 2001 re-election
for secretary of state.