A bad deal for all Georgians

Nathan Deal resigned his congressional seat to run for governor of Georgia. He is a man I came to know as a friend and colleague when I served in the Georgia State Senate. We were both lawyers serving North Georgia senate districts. We were members of a small group of senators who worked hard to serve our state by doing all we could to prevent what we saw as an assault on the Bill of Rights.

During the 1988 term of the Legislature our state was, like many others, in the throes of the “War on Drugs.”

At the start of that. session, and continuing for 40 days, many bills were introduced by well-meaning legislators which threatened the very system we had fought many wars to preserve. All were offered in the name of fighting the encroachment of drugs into our lives and communities.

As an example, one such bill would have provided that any person licensed by the state, in any occupation, would automatically lose the license if convicted of violating any one of the many anti-drug laws of our state. This would be a punishment in addition to that meted out by the trial judge.

It amounted to cruel and unusual punishment in our eyes for the state to deprive a citizen of the right to employment as well. As lawyers, we envisioned the hardship such an act would bring to bear upon women and children of the state who depended upon the payment of child support from plumbers, painters, cosmetologists, real estate agents/brokers and the many hundreds of occupations licensed by our state.

Nathan was instrumental in minimizing the damage done to our system by being a voice of reason in the midst of this stressful time.

Where did this good man go?

He was officially charged with various violations of the code of ethics by his fellow members of Congress. Regardless of his protests that the investigation was a “witch hunt” by Democrats out to destroy him, the committee members who brought the accusations consisted of six former members of Congress: three Democrats and three Republicans.

Those charging him did so after a thorough investigation of many months and had nothing whatever to gain in the matter. The vote of the committee was UNANIMOUS.

Nathan succumbed to one of the age-old issues facing many thousands of Georgians each day, that of the financial pressures faced by small businesses. His business was threatened with a devastating financial loss and he took action to prevent it, using his political position and influence to ensure that the harm would not occur.

Most ordinary business owners would do all that was within their power to preserve their way of life. In Nathan’s case however, he was not an ordinary business owner. He was an elected representative of the people. He had himself voted many times to impose upon elected officials codes of conduct more strict than those in the commercial marketplace.

These rules are intended to assure that those we elect do not yield to the power we vest in them to enrich themselves at the expense of those they serve. Nathan gave an oath to the people of Georgia to uphold the laws of the United States at the time of his swearing-in ceremony.

Once elected, Governor Nathan again became embroiled in an ethics investigation by the Georgia Ethics Commission. He used his power again to avoid the charges.

He and his colleagues forced out the executive secretary of the State Ethics Commission and others investigating the governor’s conduct. And then appointed her successor, directing the charges go away. The fired executive secretary, Stacey Kalberman, filed suit against Nathan and his henchmen — recovering a verdict against them for the damage they caused to her.

This sorry affair came with a price tag that has cost the taxpayers of our state more than $3 million.

There is an election coming up in November and the people of this state should make clear their opinion of the conduct of our current governor. He was a Bad Deal for Georgia from the beginning and has now become an national embarrassment, having received the Worst Governor Award in 2013 from the group Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics after its review of the governors of all 50 states.

Let’s stand up for education and for strict ethical standards and make our vote a resounding condemnation of the lack of leadership of Nathan Deal.

Kenneth Fuller, a retired Rome attorney and former state senator, writes a regular column for the Rome News-Tribune.

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