It took several years, but an investigation by the Georgia Ethics Commission into alleged campaign violations by state Sen. Mitch Seabaugh (R-Sharpsburg) ended with an assessed fine of $2,500. Seabaugh in response to the consent order said it was he who first approached the Ethics Commission six years ago and submitted the proper documentation but never heard from investigators until the spring of this year when the consent order was presented.
Local media reports have recently claimed that Seabaugh in past years appeared to have submitted questionable and potentially inappropriate campaign disclosure information relating to thousands of dollars in cash reimbursements, cable and internet expenses and credit card charges.
For his part, Seabaugh said in 2003 he became aware that he did not publicly disclose all of the out-of-pocket expenses related to his campaign. Seabaugh said he subsequently contacted the Ethics Commission on the matter.
“I approached them to talk about adequately making the disclosures. I called the penalty on myself and worked to do the right thing,” Seabaugh said. “I gave them the proposed amended disclosure information with the details to properly reconcile the issue.”
Shortly after his contact with the Ethics Commission a complaint was filed, Seabaugh said.
From that point forward Seabaugh said he heard nothing from the ethics office.
“They’ve had it for six years but never contacted me for clarification, even though I asked them to get back with me if they needed more information or if anything was inadequate,” said Seabaugh.
An investigation by the ethics office was eventually taken to the state Attorney General. The report based on records from 2000-2004 is said to have contained 179 technical violations and 81 questionable expenditures, according to media reports. But Thurbert Baker’s office did not pursue a prosecution in one of the Ethics Commission’s old cases, reports said.
“When we’re looking at it in terms of surviving motions in a criminal case as well as convincing a jury, it makes it a case that is not appropriate for criminal prosecution,” Attorney General’s spokesperson Russ Willard said in local media reports, adding that his office would have to show Seabaugh knowingly and willingly violated ethics laws, which he said could not be proven.
Seabaugh Thursday said that it was two years ago when he learned that the Ethics Commission investigation had been turned over to the Attorney General’s office. It was at that point he hired an attorney. Seabaugh said that, again, no more was heard on the issue until this spring when he was approached with the consent order that carried a fine of $2,500. Seabaugh said he accepted the consent order.
“The consent order was for technical violations that I already acknowledged. The fine was based on information from 2003 that I did not properly disclose. I paid the fine,” Seabaugh said.