GBI investigates state senator over questionable reimbursements



GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - Channel 2 Action News has confirmed the GBI is investigating Georgia state Sen. Don Balfour over questionable mileage and per diem claims.
On Monday, Channel 2's Lori Geary spoke to state officials about the matter.

"This is a distraction, but it has to be dealt with. It has to be resolved, so I'm hoping we get a swift resolution," said fellow Republican state Sen. Josh McKoon.

Geary reported about three weeks ago that McKoon sent a request to Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens asking him to look into a colleague.

The Senate ethics committee fined Balfour, the powerful rules chairman from Gwinnett County, $5,000.

Ethics complaints accused Balfour of taking money from taxpayers for mileage and per diem payments when he was out of state.

Lawmakers can only legally accept pay for work done while in Georgia.

"People need to realize the Senate ethics committee does not have subpoena power," McKoon said.

Olens said he did receive the report on Balfour, but would not comment further. But McKoon said he's optimistic Olens will thoroughly vet the issue.

"I think it's an important thing because it sets a precedent that you can essentially pay a fine sort of like a traffic violation for these kinds of acts. I think (it) sets a very dangerous precedent and sends a very bad message," Mckoon said.

"I inadvertently made some mistakes. I've corrected those mistakes," Balfour said.

Geary said Balfour and his attorney consider the matter resolved, but McKoon said that the decision lies with the attorney general.

"I think until his office says something one way or another, it's still an open matter," McKoon said.

Debbie Dooley, of the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots, released the following statement in part:

"This is what we have requested from the beginning - a through investigation into possible criminal conduct.  We are pleased that Attorney General Sam Olens found enough merit to the allegations of criminal conduct that he request a GBI investigation be conducted. We call on the Senate Committee on Assignments to remove Sen. Balfour as Rules Chairman.  If the Senate Committee on Assignments refuses to take action, then they are rubber stamping his un-ethical and possible illegal activity."

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