Balfour trial set for Dec. 16

Indicted state Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville, will stand trial beginning Dec. 16, after a Fulton County judge granted his wish for a speedy court date.

Balfour, charged with 18 counts of filing false expense claims and theft, was indicted in September after allegations that he charged the state for expenses on days he did not have those expenses.

He has repeatedly said he made mistakes on his expense reports but did nothing wrong intentionally.

It is not clear how long a trial would last. Balfour has said through his attorney that he intends to take his seat in the Legislature when the next session starts Jan. 13.

Republican leaders, however, have made clear he will be most unwelcome.

Gov. Nathan Deal suspended Balfour two weeks ago pending the trial after a three-member panel found him unfit for office. The same day, Balfour’s Senate colleagues kicked him out of the chamber’s Republican Caucus, effective immediately.

They also announced they had stripped him of every remaining leadership position he had in the chamber, including the chairmanship of the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee, vice-chairmanship of the Health and Human Services Committee and an ex-officio spot with the Banking and Financial Institutions Committee.

Last year, after problems with Balfour’s expense reports became public, the Senate stripped him of his position as Rules chairman. The Senate Ethics Committee also rebuked Balfour last year, fined him $5,000 and ordered him to repay the state about $350.

If Balfour returns to the Senate next year, he will have the standing of a freshman despite his 21 years of experience under the Gold Dome.