Ethics report dings ex-Fulton commissioner

EDWARDS PHOTO2

Former Fulton County Commissioner Bill Edwards

Former Fulton County Commissioner Bill Edwards recently told Channel 2 Action News‘s Mark Winne that an investigation by the Georgia Government Transparency & Campaign Finance Commission had cleared him of wrongdoing in connection with a discrepancy of nearly $80,000 in his campaign records.

“The thing the public should know most is the fact that there is no missing money,” Edwards told Channel 2. “They have vindicated me of any financial improprieties.”

Not exactly.

A copy of the Edwards investigation report obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week confirms an agency audit was able to account for all of Edwards’ campaign cash. But it also shows just how messed up Edwards’ campaign records are. So messed up that the Campaign Finance Commission says it would be too much of a hassle to require Edwards to correct them.

“In light of the numerous and repeated accounting errors, it is the commission staff’s recommendation that Mr. Edwards not be required to amend his campaign filings as required by (state law), as there is no feasible method by which the prior campaign reports can be corrected without an inordinate amount of staff resources being committed to such an endeavor,” the investigation report says.

The state investigation was prompted by a report by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Channel 2 Action News and the Georgia News Lab, which found Edwards could not account for nearly $80,000 in campaign cash. Edwards told the news organizations the discrepancy occurred when incorrect numbers were carried over from one campaign report to another in 2008. But he refused to produce documents to back up that explanation.

The state investigation concluded that Edwards’ official campaign reports are “highly inaccurate,” and private bank records indicated his campaign had $79,153 less on hand than his public disclosures indicated. The report attributed the discrepancy to numerous accounting errors.

In addition, the investigation found Edwards failed to file two required disclosure reports and spent $13,836 on personal expenses at the Commerce Club of Atlanta – a violation of state law. Edwards denied the expenditures were improper. But the report notes he has provided no evidence to support his claim.

Last month the Ethics Board found probable cause that Edwards violated campaign laws. Though investigators found no evidence to warrant a criminal investigation, the case is still pending, and Edwards faces possible civil penalties.

On Friday Edwards referred comment to his attorney, George Lawson. Lawson accused the AJC of “junk journalism.” He said the Commerce Club finding in the report is just an allegation, and he maintained his client has been cleared of any wrongdoing regarding the $80,000 discrepancy on his campaign report.

You can read the full investigation report Edwards investigation report.


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