Panel to decide if senator is suspended

A panel that will decide whether state Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville, should be suspended from office while under indictment will meet Wednesday morning.

The three-member panel will meet at 9 a.m. in the Senate Mezzanine of the State Capitol.

Senate Majority Leader Ronnie Chance, R-Tyrone, House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, R-Bonaire, and retired Chief Justice George Carley will review Balfour’s case and determine whether the charges against him make him unfit for office.

Balfour, the Senate’s longest-serving Republican and once one of its most powerful members, is charged with 18 counts of filing false expense claims and theft.

Attorney General Sam Olens, whose office is prosecuting the case, released the indictment last month. It is based on allegations that Balfour charged the state for expenses on days he did not have those expenses.

Balfour’s attorney, Ken Hodges, has said his client did not “knowingly falsify” documents, correct discrepancies and did not commit a crime.

Balfour and Hodges will be allowed to speak to the panel, which may announce its decision Wednesday.