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COMPLAINT PROCESSING PROCEDURE OUTLINE (Updated 2/2/12)
Posted By gaethics On March 3, 2011 @ 7:42 pm In | No Comments
ENFORCEMENT AND COMPLIANCE
It is the duty of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission (Commission) to enforce the Campaign Finance Act (Act).
The cases considered by the Commission are initiated in two ways:
1) the filing of sworn, written complaints alleging a violation of the Act;
2) the Commission filing its form of complaint referred to as a probable cause matter.
Complaints investigated by the Commission are either settled, dismissed or proceed to a preliminary hearing before the full Commission. If the Commission finds reasonable grounds to believe a violation of the Act has occurred, the matter proceeds to a hearing before an administrative hearing officer.
By law, the Commission has authority to impose penalties for violations of the Act, which range from assessing civil penalties and administrative costs, orders to take remedial action, suspending or revoking a lobbyist’s registration privileges, to reporting of suspected violations of law to the appropriate law enforcement authority, when necessary.
The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission only has authority to investigate alleged violations of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Act (Act), O.C.G.A. 21-5-1 through 21-5-76. These investigations can be initiated by the Commission on its own motion or by a citizen complaint.
The Act encompasses a number of different types of violations, all of which concern the agency’s core mission of promoting transparency, compliance and disclosure. General types of violations under the Act include:
The Commission does NOT have jurisdiction to investigate:
HOW TO FILE A COMPLAINT
All complaints to be considered by the Commission are required be filed in writing with the Commission and shall contain the following:
Any complaint that does not contain the above requirements will not be accepted by the Commission staff and will be returned to the Complainant. The Commission staff does not accept anonymous complaints.
AFTER THE COMPLAINT HAS BEEN FILED
Once a complaint is filed, it will proceed through a number of steps laid out by the Act:
Commission staff will review the complaint to determine whether the allegations are legally sufficient, that is, whether the allegations indicate a possible violation of the Act.
10. If the Commission finds reasonable grounds to believe that the Act has been violated, the case will then proceed to additional hearings pursuant to the Georgia Administrative Procedure Act. However, the Respondent will have 30 days to initiate resolution of the matter with Commission staff prior to an APA hearing.
11. If the Commission finds no reasonable grounds to believe a violation has occurred, the complaint shall be dismissed, subject to being reopened upon discovery of additional evidence or relevant material.
12. When the Commission concludes that a violation has been committed, it may recommend one or more penalties to the appropriate disciplinary body or official and issues a public report of its findings.
13. When the Commission determines that a person has filed a complaint with knowledge that the complaint contains one or more false allegations or with reckless disregard for whether the complaint contains false allegations, the Commission can order the Complainant to pay the attorney fees incurred by the Respondent. The Attorney General’s Office may bring a civil action to recover such fees and costs, if they are not paid willingly.
PENALTIES FOR CANDIDATES, COMMITTEES AND PUBLIC OFFICERS
Overall, should the Commission find that any violation within this chapter has taken place, it has authority to issue an order directing the violator:
(For the purposes of the penalties imposed by this division, the same error, act, omission, or inaccurate entry shall be considered a single violation if the error, act, omission, or inaccurate entry appears multiple times on the same report or causes further errors, omissions, or inaccurate entries in that report or in any future reports or further violations in that report or in any future reports) Reference O.C.G.A. § 21-5-6 (14)
In the event that a criminal violation is detected, the Commission has authority to refer cases to the appropriate law enforcement authority for further investigation and prosecution. Reference O.C.G.A. § 21-5-6(11)
While the Commission collects State Business Transaction reports pursuant to O.C.G.A. §45-10-26, the penalties available for violations of that statute can only be enforced by a prosecutor of competent jurisdiction.
EVEN IF THE CANDIDATE/OFFICIAL IS FOUND TO HAVE COMMITTED SERIOUS VIOLATIONS OF THE ACT, THE COMMISSION DOES NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO REMOVE A CANDIDATE FROM THE BALLOT OR REMOVE A PUBLIC OFFICIAL FROM OFFICE.
PENALTIES FOR LOBBYIST
In addition, any knowing failure to comply or knowing violation of this chapter constitutes a misdemeanor. Reference O.C.G.A. §21-5-9
With respect to Lobbyists, the Commission has authority to deny, suspend, or revoke the registration of a lobbyist for up to one year and/or impose a civil penalty up to $2,000 per violation , if it finds that the lobbyist:
Reference O.C.G.A. §21-5-72
It should be noted that all of the reports filed with the Commission must be verified and, as such, knowingly filing a false official document under oath with an agency of the state can constitutes a felony, punishable by 1-5 years of imprisonment and/or up to a $1,000 fine. Reference O.C.G.A. §16-10-20 and O.C.G.A. § 16-10-71
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