Mike Boyce ran successfully against incumbent Chairman Tim Lee after Lee struck a controversial deal to use public dollars to lure the Atlanta Braves to Cobb. Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com

Gala set for Cobb chairman’s ‘transition’ to benefit organizer’s charity

A gala billed as a celebration of Cobb County’s new chairman-elect, Mike Boyce, appears to be a fundraiser for an unaffiliated non-profit run by the party’s organizer.

Boyce, who beat incumbent Tim Lee in a July Republican primary runoff, is set to be sworn in at noon on December 30 at the Jennie T. Anderson Theatre at the Cobb County Civic Center.

Afterwards, supporters and local businesses have been invited to attend a privately-funded party at The Pavillion at Olde Towne in Marietta hosted by something calling itself the Mike Boyce Transition Committee, a 501(c)4 non-profit that is charging $150 for individual tickets and up to $20,000 for corporate sponsorships of the event.

The entity organizing the party is not connected to Boyce’s campaign or the new chairman’s seven, topic-specific volunteer transition committees. Boyce said he will, however, be in attendance as a guest.

“I have no role in this,” Boyce said. “It’s in recognition of me but I have no planning role in it, no participatory role in it.”

On its website, mikeboycechairman.com, which is also not affiliated with Boyce, the inaugural committee claims to be playing a central role in the transition.

“We will keep this transition process transparent, so that you will know which officials are being selected to serve in this administration and lead the county for the next four years,” the website says. “All staff appointments chosen for this administration will be committed to fulfilling Boyce’s campaign promises, of transparence in our government, and to serving the people of Cobb again.”

The man behind the event, Joe Profit, is a parishioner at the Johnson Ferry Baptist Church. Boyce said the two met at a prayer group and he merely accepted Profit’s offer to throw him a party.

“This is the danger you have, when you have 501(c)4’s out there that are truly independent of a campaign,” Boyce said, emphasizing that he had no knowledge of the ticket prices or what the money would be used for.

Boyce said because of the nature of the transition committee’s 501(c)4 status, he could not have any direct contact with it.

501c4 is a federal tax designation often used in combination with super PACs to keep campaign contributions anonymous.

Even with the federal designation, the event could still be subject to state ethics review if complaints are filed. The event must comply with Georgia law governing contributions and lobbying.

Rick Thompson, former executive director of the Georgia Ethics Commission, said it was not uncommon for large inaugural parties to set up a 501(c)4 to raise private funds.

“As long as it’s not campaign-related, I don’t know of anything that would keep an elected official from knowing what was transpiring,” Thompson said.

Profit, a former Falcon first round draft choice turned businessman, said he wanted to host the gala to thank the volunteers working for Boyce. He said the money would go to cover the cost of the event, as well as the transition itself, but could not provide details of the types of transition expenses that might arise.

“It makes a big difference to have an orderly transition,” Profit said. “It’s to finance the transition.”

In a followup email, Profit said the funds would go toward his own non-profit, which he said promotes oral health and civic responsibility among children.

“Outside of direct expenses of the event, a large portion of the funding will be used to support the transition team primary benefactor, Youth United for Prosperity Foundation, Legends & Kids Young Authors Program,” he wrote.

A similar passage appears on the website selling tickets under “transition team activities.”

When Chairman Lee was elected in 2010 and again in 2012, he was sworn in in the Board of Commissioners meeting room followed by a small reception for family and friends in the room across the hall, according to Lee’s deputy chief, Kellie Brownlow.

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