Originally created 09/09/06

GOP questions Taylor leases to state



ATLANTA - Republicans called for an investigation Friday after a newspaper reported that six state agencies have paid Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Taylor's family more than $2.6 million for property leases over the past three decades.

State laws do not prohibit public officials or their relatives from leasing property to the state. There is no record that Mr. Taylor ever attempted to influence the leases, and Taylor spokesman Rick Dent said the lieutenant governor has not personally benefited from the leases.

Mr. Taylor is paid $100,000 a year as a board member and vice president in his father's trucking firm, Fred Taylor Co. Inc.

One government watchdog said Mr. Taylor's ties to the leases raise ethical questions.

"Having an interest in a company that does business with the government you are serving is something elected officials should avoid - in fact, most do," Bill Bozarth, the executive director of Common Cause of Georgia, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Republicans on Friday called for an investigation by the state attorney general, saying the lease deals appear to violate the state code of ethics.

"I don't know that it meets the smell test," said state Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville.

The elder Mr. Taylor moved to segregate his business dealings with the state from his son as Mark Taylor's political career took off. In 2002, he changed two leases that were held by Fred Taylor Co. - the management company his son drew a salary from - into his own name.