State investigating Gwinnett solicitor for missed campaign filings

Gwinnett’s Democratic solicitor general, Brian Whiteside (right), chats with Curtis Clemons at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center in Lawrenceville on Friday October 11th, 2019. (Photo by Phil Skinner) AJC FILE PHOTO
Gwinnett’s Democratic solicitor general, Brian Whiteside (right), chats with Curtis Clemons at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center in Lawrenceville on Friday October 11th, 2019. (Photo by Phil Skinner) AJC FILE PHOTO

The state ethics commission is investigating Gwinnett Solicitor Brian Whiteside, claiming he has not filed required financial disclosures for more than two years.

The complaint, filed last week by the Georgia Government Transparency & Campaign Finance Commission, says six of Whiteside’s Campaign Contribution Disclosure Reports are missing, beginning with those due in March 2018. The complaint also says Whiteside never filed Personal Financial Disclosure Statements for 2018 and 2019.

Gwinnett Elections Supervisor Kristi Royston said Wednesday that she has hard copies of five campaign finance disclosures on file, though each was filed after the deadline. None of the disclosures that the ethics commission says are missing appear in Gwinnett County’s campaign finance portal.

“That will be corrected later today,” Royston said Wednesday afternoon.

She said she did not have copies of Whiteside’s personal financial disclosures or a campaign finance disclosure that was due in June.

“Maybe the last one I might have filed late,” Whiteside said. "They were filed by hand. ... I never use the computer because I’m not really computer literate.”

Whiteside said he had largely funded his own campaign, and had taken only two contributions while he was running for office, both for $500.

The maximum penalty for missed filings is $1,000 for the first instance, $10,000 for the second and $25,000 for the third and each subsequent violation. The late filing penalty is $125 per filing. Whiteside could be subject to more than $12,000 in fines.

David Emadi, the commission’s executive director, said penalties would be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Emadi said he came across the issues with Whiteside’s filings while investigating the solicitor’s employees.

Patsy Austin-Gatson, a Democrat, is running for District Attorney against the incumbent, Republican Danny Porter. Porter filed an ethics complaint against Austin-Gatson and two others earlier this month, claiming all three employees of the solicitor’s office were campaigning on county time and using county resources.

Austin-Gatson, her husband Travis Gatson and former sheriff’s candidate Curtis Clemons have all denied the claims.

Whiteside said Gatson’s decision to hand out information about his wife’s campaign while in Hall County on business “wasn’t very smart.” But he said the move was not corrupt.

“They’re just being dutiful,” Whiteside said of the investigation. “We don’t have anything to hide.”