Common Cause Georgia Files Complaint Against Georgia State Charter School Commission

Common Cause Georgia today filed a complaint with the state’s Inspector General to investigate recently revealed payments and offers of payments by a state vendor to state employees, and that same vendor’s violations of transparency law. We also urged the state employee who accepted these payments to return them immediately.

“Georgia’s citizens need to know that state employees are not being personally paid by the very vendors they are charged with overseeing, on behalf of the taxpayers,” said Sara Henderson, executive director, Common Cause Georgia. “The citizens of Georgia should have confidence that state government employees are not conflicted by receiving or being offered side ‘consulting payments’ from state vendors, and vendors should be held accountable for inappropriate offers, payments, and violations of important government transparency laws.” Henderson said.

Common Cause Georgia filed a Request for Investigation with the state’s Inspector General, based on recent reporting in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which described the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) offers of consulting contracts to various state employees at the same state agency with which they have done more than $250,000 of business. The Georgia State Charter Schools Commission (GASCSC), the state agency involved, claims these “personal consulting payments” from the vendor to “a public official” do not violate state laws prohibiting or limiting such payments. This interpretation of state law is wrong. If allowed to stand, it will create a terrible precedent, allowing our state employees to accept private payment offers from vendors.

Moreover, NACSA’s activities were not discovered when they occurred. One reason is that NACSA ignored state law that requires state vendors to report when they give things of value, such as cash, to state employees. NACSA also ignored a requirement to file financial reports. These reporting requirements for non-­profit vendors are instead of being subject to the state’s procurement code. State law mandates that vendors that violate this section repay funds received and are barred from business with the state for one year.

“If these important transparency laws are to mean anything, these blatant violations of the law must be addressed,” Henderson added.

Common Cause Georgia is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization that works to strengthen public participation in our democracy and ensure that public officials and public institutions are accountable and responsive to citizens. Through a powerful combination of coalition building, lobbying and litigation, grassroots organizing, policy development, research and public education, we spotlight local, state and national issues that affect every Georgian.