Originally created 03/09/02

Panel resolves ethics complaints



DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. - Chatham County Commission Chairman Billy Hair must file more detailed reports of how he spent campaign funds in 1999, the State Ethics Commission ordered Friday.

It also disposed of a separate complaint against his predecessor and rival, Joe Mahany, for filing late campaign reports and for what Ethics staff termed a minor violation six years ago regarding missing information about a contribution.

Four complaints were filed against Mr. Hair. Two alleged that the Republican received campaign contributions in 1999 from affiliated donors totaling more than the legal limit.

But state law at the time made the donors, not the candidate, subject to fines. And because the donors were from out of state and hadn't responded to calls from ethics investigators, the Ethics Commissioners dropped the complaints.

"We feel like it would be kind of a waste of time," said Teddy Lee, the executive secretary to the Ethics Commission.

Another complaint said Mr. Hair wasn't specific enough about how he spent campaign funds. He agreed to file a corrected report.

A fourth complaint, filed like the others by Mr. Mahany, accused Mr. Hair of using campaign funds to pay for his consulting business. Mr. Hair told the commission it was the other way around - his business paid phone bills and rent for the campaign when contributions were low.

"It's interesting that the charge is we profited from the campaign when we subsidized it," Mr. Hair said under oath.

The same complaint alleged he improperly paid a county worker for campaign work, but members of the Ethics Commission classified the arrangement as a straightforward business deal.

Mr. Mahany, though, asked to review Mr. Hair's records and to testify before the ethics panel voted.

"It is my personal belief that Mr. Hair has been very untruthful in this hearing," Mr. Mahany said.

Moments after dismissing the cases against Mr. Hair, the panel accepted Mr. Mahany's late reports and closed the book on complaints against him. Mr. Mahany paid $75 fines for each of two reports that he filed last month, years after they were due.