What is the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia?

Head of agency investigating lieutenant governor’s role in 2020 election.
Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia Executive Director Peter J. Skandalakis answers questions during a press conference announcing the charging decision in the Rayshard Brooks case on Tuesday, August 23, 2022.

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia Executive Director Peter J. Skandalakis answers questions during a press conference announcing the charging decision in the Rayshard Brooks case on Tuesday, August 23, 2022.

Pete Skandalakis’ announcement Thursday that he would decide whether to prosecute Lt. Gov. Burt Jones for allegedly interfering in the 2020 election shines a spotlight on the nonpartisan state agency he leads: The Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia. Known as PAC, the council has handled several political hot potatoes over the last several years. It first inherited the Jones investigation almost two years ago.

Here’s what you need to know about the organization and how it works:

What does it do?

The Morrow-based council helps train and guide prosecutors and solicitors in Georgia’s 50 judicial circuits. It holds continuing legal education seminars, aids members with legal research and provides guidance on professional responsibilities. While most of the funding for DA offices comes from local tax dollars, PAC doles out state money — including for the salaries of some assistant DAs, investigators and victims’ advocates. It also reviews bills being considered in the state legislature that could affect the criminal justice system. As of 2022, PAC was tasked with appointing substitute prosecutors when a DA or solicitor general’s office has a conflict of interest in a case.

How does it make decisions?

The council consists of nine rotating members — six DAs and three state court solicitors from around Georgia — who set policies that guide PAC’s roughly 40 staff members. The council is currently chaired by Clayton DA Tasha Mosley. PAC’s day-to-day decisions are made by Skandalakis, the executive director, who served as DA for the Coweta Judicial Circuit for more than 25 years.

Which notable cases has PAC been involved in?

A special prosecutor appointed by the council declined to pursue charges against the Atlanta police officers involved in the 2020 shooting death of Rayshard Brooks in the parking lot of a south Atlanta Wendy’s. PAC had contracted with former Gwinnett County DA Danny Porter to review whether the officers’ use of deadly force was “objectively reasonable” and if they acted with criminal intent. The investigation of former officers Garrett Rolfe and Devin Brosnan had landed with the council after a judge recused Fulton County DA Fani Willis and her office from the case due to the conduct of her predecessor, Paul Howard, who had quickly brought charges against the two officers.

Community leaders react to drop charges against APD officers in Rayshard Brooks case

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PAC also reviewed child sex abuse allegations in Georgia’s Roman Catholic Church. In a report last spring, the council concluded that no priests, deacons or other clergy could be prosecuted because they were deceased, had already been prosecuted or the statute of limitations expired before its review was launched in 2019.

In February, Athens-Clarke DA Deborah Gonzalez tapped Sheila Ross, a senior PAC staffer, to lead the case against the suspect charged in the death of nursing student Laken Hope Riley on the University of Georgia campus.

Burt Jones

PAC took the reins of the Jones case in July 2022 after Fulton County Superior Court Robert McBurney disqualified Willis and her office from investigating the Republican because of a fundraiser Willis held for the Democrat who would go on to become his opponent in the race for lieutenant governor.

Jones was among the 16 Georgia Republicans who served as electors for Trump in December 2020 despite Democrat Joe Biden’s narrow win in the state.

Lt. Gov. Burt Jones speaks during the Georgia Chamber’s “Eggs and Issues” breakfast at Mercedes Benz stadium in Atlanta on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024. (Natrice Miller/Natrice.miller@ajc.com)

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

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Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

McBurney called the optics of Willis’ fundraiser “horrific” and said they could undermine public confidence in the probe.

Could PAC play a role in Fulton’s larger election case?

If defense attorneys had won their battle earlier this year to disqualify Willis and her office from the election interference case, it would have gone to PAC. Instead, Fulton Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee ruled that Willis could remain at the helm. Trump and eight of his co-defendants have appealed that decision to the Georgia Court of Appeals. If the appeals court decides to take the case and reverses McAfee, it could land with PAC after all.

In past cases, Skandalakis said he’s looked at factors such as the resources and size of a DA’s office, the level of professional experience and geography to try and assign prosecutors from a similar urban, suburban or rural area from the disqualified office. Skandalakis said in previous instances he’s also taken into account the willingness of a DA to take over a case, though he could assign it without their permission.

Money has been a limiting factor for hiring private attorneys in the past. PAC is only permitted to pay such counsel a state-mandated hourly rate of $62.25 an hour (sitting DAs would not be paid additional money beyond their current salaries). And that hourly rate would not pay for the cost of printing and filing motions, doing legal research, office supplies and salaries for any sort of administrative help. Porter, when he took on the Brooks case, said he ultimately opted not to bill for his work because the pay wasn’t worth the time putting together the invoices.