January 13, 2020 - Atlanta - Following the opening of the 2020 General Assembly, Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan held a press conference to discuss his priorities for the 2020 legislative session and take questions. The Georgia General Assembly started its 2020 session amid a backdrop of an election year. Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com
Photo: bandres@ajc.com/Bob Andres
Photo: bandres@ajc.com/Bob Andres

Duncan’s ties with state health vendor under scrutiny 

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan accepted pricey sports tickets from a health care vendor as he was discussing selling the firm the concept of an app his company was seeking to develop. 

That was the crux of a story aired late Wednesday by Fox 5’s Dale Russell that scrutinized the first-term Republican’s cozy relationship with Sharecare, a digital healthcare platform based in Atlanta.

The outlet reported that Sharecare officials gave Duncan primo tickets to Atlanta Hawks games that weren’t initially reported with the state ethics commission. 

Duncan sought to sell a “healthcare app concept” to the company, founded by Jeff Arnold and Dr. Mehmet Oz, but Fox 5 reported the deal fell through. The firm has a $14 million contract with the state to provide digital healthcare support to state employees.

A Duncan spokesman told the outlet that he sat in Arnold’s front-row Hawks seats on three separate occasions but didn’t disclose them because Arnold isn’t a registered lobbyist. Duncan later cut a “massive check” for the cost to avoid the appearance of impropriety after Fox 5 questioned the tickets, the aide said.

There were other signs of a cozy relationship between Duncan and the firm. In October, Duncan flew on a private jet with Arnold for a fundraiser in St. Louis and an Atlanta Braves playoff game. The flight was financed by his campaign and an independent committee.

He also participated in a 4-day healthcare conference organized by Sharecare that included seminars on infant and maternal mortality and other healthcare challenges. It was held at a Montana ranch and involved four other state employees and Gov. Brian Kemp, who stayed one night. All told, it cost taxpayers $5,500 to finance travel and other related costs, the network reported.

Duncan said through a spokesman that he did nothing wrong. From his statement:

"I promised in my campaign that I would remain a citizen legislator with one foot in the private sector – just as previous lieutenant governors have done -- and hold myself to the highest ethical standards. Any business decision I make starts with an in-depth consultation with my legal team to ensure we stay well within the law.”

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