Lawyer picked as investigator of Speaker Ralston is campaign donor

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Lawyer picked as investigator of Speaker Ralston is campaign donor

The Georgia Supreme Court’s pick to put House Speaker David Ralston’s behavior as a lawyer on trial is a one-time contributor to his political campaigns.

So is the attorney’s wife.

The State Bar of Georgia asked the state Supreme Court to appoint an investigator, known as a special master.

The court chose Mark F. Dehler of Hiawassee. Dehler is a longtime attorney married to Cathy Cox, a former Democratic secretary of state and gubernatorial candidate who is now president of Young Harris College.

Records show Dehler contributed $500 to Ralston’s re-election campaign in 2010, and Cox contributed $250 in 2013.

Besides being president of Young Harris, Cox has been a frequent visitor to the statehouse during legislative sessions, lobbying lawmakers to continue funding more than $20 million a year in grants to private college students.

Dehler told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he looked at his contribution records last week after being appointed and found that he’d given about $30,000 to political candidates over the past decade.

“If I thought I was biased (for contributing), I wouldn’t have accepted the assignment by the Supreme Court,” he said.

The AJC reported Friday that Ralston is accused of violating nine State Bar rules, including allegations that he misused a state law that allows lawmakers to postpone legal proceedings when legislative business interferes. The law, known as legislative leave, says a member of the General Assembly who is a party to or the attorney in a case “shall be granted a continuance and stay of the case.”

The speaker faces public reprimand or even disbarment if the court rules against him.

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