Appellate court rules against Oxendine, keeps ethics complaint alive

Former Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine lost another round in his court fight to have accusations dismissed over his handling of campaign money during his failed 2010 bid for governor.

A Superior Court judge last year rejected Oxendine’s bid seeking dismissal of the state ethics commission complaint and ruled that the ethics panel should decide the case.

The Georgia Court of Appeals has concurred with the court’s ruling that the ethics commission should get a shot at finally completing the case.

Oxendine’s attorney, Douglas Chalmers, said his client has filed notice that he will appeal the case to the Georgia Supreme Court.

Oxendine, a lawyer, has argued that delays in his case — which began in 2009 — have harmed his professional and personal reputation, and the courts, rather than the commission, should decide the case.

But the appeals court said, in its ruling, “The harm alleged is the same harm that would potentially exist in every case where a candidate is accused of a violation of the (ethics) act.”

Ethics watchers have raised concerns about the Oxendine case, saying that if he succeeds, politicians would avoid fighting cases before the commission set up to adjudicate campaign finance and ethics laws and instead take complaints to court.

Oxendine, the onetime front-runner in the Republican race for governor in 2010, has been battling ethics complaints since 2009. Following an Atlanta Journal-Constitution report, a complaint was filed accusing two insurance companies of funneling $120,000 in illegal contributions to Oxendine’s gubernatorial campaign.

An ethics complaint against the insurers accused of giving the money to Oxendine was dismissed in 2014 because the ethics commission’s staff had made so little progress on it. But the commission didn’t dismiss charges against Oxendine, the recipient of the donations.

The case remained largely dormant until the AJC reported in 2015 that he failed to return more than $500,000 worth of leftover contributions from his gubernatorial bid and spent money raised for Republican runoff and general election campaigns that he never ran because he lost the primary. Oxendine later amended his reports to show more than $700,000 left over.

Following the AJC report, ethics commission staffers filed an amended complaint against Oxendine, accusing him of improperly spending more than $208,000 raised for the runoff and general elections and accepting more than the legal limit in contributions from 19 donors.

The commission dismissed many of the charges in December 2015 after Chalmers argued that the statute of limitations had run out on charges involving the 2010 campaign.

But the commission kept alive the allegations that he took illegal contributions from the insurance companies and spent money raised for races he never ran.

About the Author

Editors' Picks