William Perry, executive director of Georgia Ethics Watchdogs, filed an ethics complaint against Councilwoman Maryline Blackburn, who represents Smyrna’s Ward 3.
Blackburn is Smyrna’s first African-American city council member, and is seeking a second term in the November 5 election.
The complaint, submitted to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, made the following allegations:
- Failing to disclose in-kind and/or expenses for her campaign office located on Concord Road on her campaign disclosure reports, and,
- Exceeding in-kind contribution amounts for that office space if it was indeed an in-kind contribution, and,
- Repeatedly omitting address and employer information on several campaign reports for donors, only reporting a name and dollar amount, and,
- Seemingly failing to file several campaign finance disclosure reports.
Asked, in a phone conversation with the Courier, why he filed the report, Perry said, “First and foremost, it’s state law, and if you’re a candidate for public office, at any level, at some point you’re going to have input on a law. It baffles me why someone wouldn’t follow it if they intend to be the maker, and possibly the enforcer of the law.”
“Second, the campaign disclosure report, which (has) heavy emphasis on the word ‘disclosure’, is supposed to disclose the source of your income and then what you spend on your campaign,” he said. “And that’s something that’s very important in our system for voters to be able to see, for people to be able to scrutinize how you make spending decisions, and what the source of your money is.”
“And finally, specifically with office expense, that’s usually one of the largest for a campaign,” he said. “So not reporting it is probably representing the largest expenditure that campaign has made, and she’s not willing to say the source, how much it is, where that money’s coming from, who’s providing it.”
Perry said, “And I always think it’s important for voters to consider. If someone is not responsibly handling the reporting of their own campaign funds, what are they going to do with your tax dollars? How responsible will they be with those decisions?”
When asked how he decides which candidate filings to look into, Perry said, “About 90 percent of the complaints that I file I get through my website. I have a whistle-blower window on there, where people can go on and give tips and things like that.”
“Usually they are anonymous,” he said. “And I’ve always had a policy that I don’t care what the source is, if I get a tip I look into it, and if something’s there, if there’s a violation of the law, I’ll usually file a complaint.”
Maryline Blackburn’s response
The Courier reached out to Blackburn for comment, and she sent the following response in an email.
I just became aware of this complaint that has been filed by an Athens Georgia resident from a self-proclaimed watchdog group. I have not been contacted by anyone from Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission regarding the allegation from the 2017 campaign. If the commission contacts us we will, of course, respond appropriately.
The timing of this complaint during the last week of the campaign appears to be yet another desperate attempt by my opponent to distract the voters from the issues they care about; Sterigenics, Traffic, Schools, the Environment and more.
I encourage (the Cobb County Courier) to investigate the source of this complaint and his relationship with my opponent. My opponent is a career lobbyist, PAC fundraiser and self-described political “operative”, and in my opinion, he is doing what operatives do.
It is truly unfortunate that these type of political tricks are taking place in our Smyrna political arena let alone city government. I am confident that the voters of Smyrna Ward 3 will soundly reject this brand of politics at the polls.