Federal authorities are investigating a Georgia civil rights organization led by a prominent state lawmaker.
A federal grand jury has subpoenaed at least two people to testify about the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, whose president is Rep. Tyrone Brooks, D-Atlanta. FBI agents have interviewed at least two people with ties to the organization.
GABEO treasurer Henry Ficklin and Ron Brown, a deacon at First African Baptist Church in Monroe, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that they have received subpoenas. Ficklin has already testified, he told the AJC; Brown said he is to appear Wednesday.
Brooks told Channel 2 Action News he has no knowledge of any wrongdoing and said he is not aware of an investigation. Asked if the FBI has spoken to him about GABEO or the organization’s finances, Brooks said, “No. They haven’t been to me.”
Brooks said GABEO, founded in 1970, has more than 1,000 members.
Brooks said friends have called him to report visits by individuals identifying themselves as FBI agents. First, the questions were about the 1946 lynching of two black couples at Moore’s Ford Bridge in Monroe, Brooks said. Ultimately, the queries focused on questions about GABEO’s finances.
John Horn, first assistant U.S. attorney in Atlanta, said he could not confirm or deny that there is an investigation.
Ficklin, a Macon city councilman, said he testified to the grand jury about GABEO’s finances. Brown said he has already been interviewed by the FBI and will testify this week. All of the agent’s questions, he said, were about the annual historical re-enactment of the 1946 lynching of four African-Americans at Moore’s Ford Bridge.
Brooks and GABEO have supported the re-enactments, held since 2004, and both continue to lead efforts to bring the killers to justice. No one was ever charged in the killings.
Brown’s church hosts the re-enactment each year, and Brown said the FBI agent asked if he or the church was compensated.
“The question she asked me was did any money change hands,” Brown said. “She asked me about the finances and if any money was changing hands. I said the answer is, ‘No.’”
Brown said it’s “ironic” the FBI is poking around the re-enactment since no one was ever convicted in the actual lynchings.
“They’re concerned about the finances surrounding the issue instead of paying more attention to the living suspects in this case,” Brown said.
Brooks said he believes any federal investigation is being stirred up by those angry of the attention he and GABEO are giving the unsolved murders.
“Taking this on has meant we have had to take on some of these projects that are very unpopular,” Brooks said. “I think it’s rubbing some people the wrong way.”
Staff writers Bill Rankin and Jim Galloway contributed to this article.
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