Cobb school board member fined for campaign finance violation

The logo on front of a Cobb County School District facilityCobb County School District sign (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

By Rebecca Gaunt

Cobb County Board of Education member David Chastain was fined a $250 civil penalty and must return a portion of two donations his campaign accepted that exceeded the $3,000 contribution limit.

Democratic candidate Catherine Pozniak filed the complaint against the Republican incumbent with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission in October 2022.

State Rep. Ginny Ehrhart (R-West Cobb) donated $5,500 and attorney Jonathan Crumly, then a principal at Taylor English Decisions, now with the law firm Freeman Mathis & Gary according to its website, donated $4,000.

In October, Chastain told the Courier he realized the mistake and filed an amendment to split the contributions between the primary and general election.

However, state law requires candidates to file for the “Option to Choose Separate Accounting” in order to bundle donations from a single contributor in amounts over the maximum. Chastain did not file that paperwork.

According to the consent order issued by the Commission, Chastain, “through his counsel, contacted the Commission and admitted to the mistake in failure to file the form which would’ve enabled the contributions to have been accepted. Respondent furnished requested documentation to the Commission and was cooperative with the investigation.”

Chastain must refund $1,500 to Ehrhart and $1,000 to Crumly.

When Pozniak filed the complaint she said that the donors “benefitted from a no-bid contract David Chastain authorized as a member of the Cobb County Board of Education to draw a [redistricting] map that is not even the responsibility of the school board.”

The contract was with Taylor English Duma LLP, and at the time, former state representative Earl Ehrhart was the CEO of the affiliated Taylor English Decisions. Ginny Ehrhart, successfully ran for her husband’s seat when he retired from the legislature. Earl Ehrhart is now the managing director of the government relations team at Freeman Mathis & Gary.

In January, the Cobb school board hired Freeman Mathis & Gary to represent the district in a federal lawsuit alleging racial discrimination in the drawing of the new school board map, which Ginny Ehrhart carried in the Georgia Assembly.

Chastain kept the seat he has held since 2014 with 54% of the vote to Pozniak’s 46%.

Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.