Ethics committee says it will sue ex-insurance commissioner

Georgia ethics officials said they would pursue allegations of wrongdoing against former state insurance commissioner John Oxendine, reversing an administrative law judge’s ruling that they had waited too long long time.

Oxendine is accused of illegally using funds from his failed 2010 election campaign to buy a house and rent cars.

The state Ethics Commission voted to overturn Judge Ronit Walker’s decision that she had not pursued the allegations quickly enough, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. However, the commissioners accepted the judge’s ruling that the commission cannot sue Oxendine for accepting $120,000 in pooled contributions – 10 times what was then the legal limit – from two Georgian insurance companies in 2008 when he was running for governor.

Walker discovered last year that state law only covers penalties for donors when they pool contributions, not for recipients.

The ethics complaint against the insurers was dismissed in 2014 because commission staff had made little progress. Charges remained against Oxendine, who was elected insurance commissioner four times before losing his bid for governor.

Walker decided to dismiss all remaining ethics charges against Oxendine, but state law allows the agency, officially known as the Georgia Government Transparency & Campaign Finance Commission, to overturn the decision. The commission will hold a hearing on charges involving spending on Oxendine’s campaign funds, decide whether he violated the law and possibly penalize him.

“In the end, John Oxendine took the campaign money and used it to pay the down payment on his house, pay private country club membership dues and pay the lease on his vehicle, among others,” commissioned Executive Secretary David Emadi. noted.

Oxendine called the cases a “waste of taxpayers’ money” and his attorney, Doug Chalmers, told the commission, “It has been a moving target from day one. »

The Journal-Constitution reported in 2016 that Oxendine kept $500,000 of money left over from his gubernatorial campaign and kept contributions collected for a possible Republican runoff and general election he never ran for. featured after losing the Republican primary.

Oxendine filed new reports in October 2015 indicating that more than $700,000 remained, including $237,000 in loans to his law firm.

The Ethics Commission said Oxendine used some of those loans to make a $96,500 down payment on a home. The rest went to Mercedes and Jaguar rentals, retirement account contributions and sports club dues, officials said.

It is illegal in Georgia for a candidate to use campaign contributions for personal expenses unrelated to a campaign. Chalmers argued in 2019 that loans are allowed.

Ethics officials said Oxendine never mentioned a loan in his campaign reports before the newspaper report and had no intention of repaying the money before he was exposed.

Oxendine had $254,000 remaining in the account after paying Chalmers approximately $200,000 to defend him.