ATLANTA — A panel appointed by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal decided Friday that state Rep. Tyrone Brooks should not be suspended from office while facing federal wire and mail fraud charges.
The panel said in a two-paragraph report to Gov. Nathan Deal that it reviewed the indictment and determined the accusations did not relate to the performance or activities of Brooks’ office.
Brooks referred requests for comment to his lawyer, former Gov. Roy Barnes, who did not immediately return a phone call Friday.
The 30-count federal indictment handed down last month charges Brooks with mail fraud, wire fraud and filing false tax returns. It alleged the Atlanta Democrat solicited more than $1 million in contributions from the mid-1990s to 2012 to fight illiteracy in underserved communities but used the money for personal expenses, ranging from home repairs to credit card bills.
Brooks, first elected to the General Assembly in 1981, has pleaded not guilty. Barnes has said Brooks never took a salary from the charitable organizations he worked for, but that he was paid for expenses and used that money to pay his bills.
The panelists were the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, Rep. Stacey Abrams and Sen. Steve Henson, along with Republican Attorney General Sam Olens. They held a brief hearing Friday and quickly submitted their unanimous recommendation.
During the hearing, which lasted less than 15 minutes, Barnes urged them not to suspend Brooks, saying the allegations had nothing to do with his elected office and weren’t affecting the public.
Barnes clashed with Olens briefly when the attorney general told him he wouldn’t be allowed to call or cross-examine witnesses.